Maternity Negligence in England: Are Birth Injuries More Common Than We Realise?

West Mercia Police launched an investigation in to maternity negligence at two Shropshire hospitals on July 1 2020. The investigation will focus on an alleged 40 year history of baby and maternal negligence and will assess 1200 cases.  In November 2019, A leaked interim report from a review, noted the death of 42 babies and 3 mothers and brain injuries sustained by 51 babies between 1979 – 2017.

Is this an isolated situation or is the negligent care of mothers and newborns more widespread?

A Study of Maternity Negligence Claims in England Between 2000-2010

A study by NHS Resolution analysed 5,087 maternity claims on the NHS Litigation Authority’s (NHSLA) claims database as at 1st April 2010, with an incident date between 1st April 2000 and 31st March 2010. Obstetrics and gynaecology claims account for 20% of the number of all clinical negligence claims and 49% of the total value of compensation paid.

According to the 10 year study, the three most common areas of hospital negligence were related to:

These three areas account for approximately 70% of the total figure of £3.1 billion, paid out on or expected to be paid, for all maternity claims.

However, according to the study, other areas in which negligence occurred during childbirth were:

  • Mistakes made in the interpretation of fetal ultrasounds  which could screen for conditions such as Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, heart or brain defects and other developmental abnormalities
  • Poorly managed pregnancy complications – eg pre-eclampsia can cause the mother to have high blood pressure, putting her at risk of stroke, HELLP syndrome and organ failure.
  • Failure to assess, diagnose and treat infections in mother and newborn. Some of these infections could include Sepsis and Group Strep B.
  • Failure to assess and manage a baby’s health eg. Failure to diagnose and treat neonatal hypoglycemia (NH) in infants can also result in devastating and irreversible brain damage.

NHS Resolution Report on Medical Negligence Claims  2018 /19

According to the NHS Resolution Annual report 2018/19, 10% of the medical negligence compensation claims made in 2018/19 related to obstetrics, however the value of these claims represented 50% of the total paid out.

Is compensation available to mothers and babies for medical negligence?

The vast majority of births in the UK are carried out safely.  Unfortunately for a variety of complex reasons, mistakes can be made by midwives, consultants, surgeons and other medical professionals resulting in potentially devastating consequences for mother and child.

Negligence associated with childbirth could take place before birth, during delivery and after the delivery when assessing and monitoring the health of mother and child.

Because pregnancy and childbirth negligence is a complex area it is always recommended to discuss your case with specialist birth injury solicitors with experience of successfully pursuing a variety of claims such as those relating to physical injuries, surgical errors especially those relating to Caesarean sections, failures in correctly monitoring health or interpreting scans, or oxygen deprivation and brain injury to a baby, including cerebral palsy.

Devonshires Claims provides a No Win No Fee’ agreement for birth injury claims, which means that there are no upfront costs* to start your compensation claim. For more information on making a private or NHS maternity negligence claim or to start your free case evaluation contact our birth injury solicitors today on 0333 900 8787, email or complete our online form.

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