Cathy Warwick, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, has expressed concern about the latest figures on maternity unit closures.
There was a 70% increase in 2016 in the number of maternity units having to close their doors to women in labour compared with 2014.
Her view is that the figures confirm that our maternity services are not adequately resourced and the pressures that staff are under can lead to mistakes and more stressful labours for women. From my discussions with maternity professionals, many would agree with her views.
The ongoing training of qualified midwives is also affected by the lack of funding, which has a direct impact on the safety of mothers and babies.
In the recent Each Baby Counts Inquiry by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, a key issue in the poor care identified by them was the failure to properly monitor the baby’s heart rate during labour.
If a CTG monitor is used during labour to monitor the baby’s heart rate, it is crucial that the staff are able to interpret the trace correctly. Most training is provided in-house by hospital Trusts and the consistency and quality of this training varies widely.
The mother and baby charity, Baby Lifeline, has been providing excellent training by expert clinicians in this area for years, but they still struggle to obtain enough government funding to make this available to all staff and have to rely on charity fundraising.
The charity is a unique, collaborative organisation which includes midwives, obstetricians, neonatologists, paediatricians and anaesthetists and their preference would be to focus on the training provision rather than fundraising. A clear link has been identified between the poor interpretation of CTG traces and damage to babies which costs the NHS millions in compensation each year.
How can the government fail to take this opportunity when all we hear about is the need to reduce the cost of clinical negligence claims? Provide the funding; improve standards of care; save money.
Gill Edwards is a senior clinical negligence solicitor with Potter Rees Dolan and is a member of the Multi-Professional Advisory Panel of the mother and baby charity Babylifeline. Should you have any queries about clinical negligence issues, in particular birth injuries, and wish to speak with Gill or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888.