On 21 June 2017 the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists through their quality improvement programme published the summary of their findings in a report ‘Each Baby Counts’.They now pledge to reduce the number of babies who die or are left severely disabled as a result of incidents occurring during term labour.
What does the project report tell us?
- Each year in the UK between 500 and 800 babies die or are left with severe brain injury because something goes wrong during labour.
- The RCOG identifies that many of these tragedies are avoidable
- Factors such as hospital culture and failure to monitor and understand babies’ heart rate patterns were identified as being part of the cause of the problem.
- The RCOG are committed to reducing these numbers by 50% by 2020.
Why does this matter?
The life of a family is changed forever by the stillbirth or death of a newborn baby or the birth of a baby with brain injuries. The cost to each family can be tragic. The knowledge that things could have been different is carried with parents for life.
Enable Law has worked with lots of families who have been through the kind of situations covered in the report. We also work with many charities that are looking to make hospitals safer when you have a baby. Some of our specialist lawyers have given their thoughts on this important report, and how it affects some of the charities we partner with:
Sands ran a national Why 17? campaign between 2009 and 2014 to raise public awareness and to reduce the number of babies who died every day in the UK.
Claire Stoneman has been a member and active supporter of Sands for many years and leads a team of specialists who represent families whose babies have tragically died or suffered a brain injury during delivery. There has been a downward trend in the number of babies who die every day in the UK before, during or shortly after birth. The figure is now 15 a day. Whilst progress has been made, the UK still falls far behind other countries where the rate is as low as 2-3 stillbirths per 1,000 births.
June is Sands Awareness Month. They are running a campaign to highlight that 15 babies dying a day is too many. On 15th June Sands erected washing lines with 15 babygros hanging from them in iconic locations across the country to raise public awareness and to encourage people to talk about this taboo subject. The aim of the campaign is to not only raise awareness that too many babies die but also to ensure that lessons are learnt when things go wrong and that families are listened to and supported through their bereavement.
Sands have also this week launched a Safer Pregnancy website which is a resource for pregnant women and anyone thinking of having a baby. The website is designed to empower parents with the information they need to reduce the risks of baby death as much as possible and to make the pregnancy as safe as possible for both Mum and baby.
This report highlights issues that are very high on the agenda for Baby Lifeline, a charity that provides essential training for midwives and doctors as well as equipment including the CTG monitors used in labour. The charity has been inundated by requests for the training in response to the government’s release of funds for training in October 2016.
Bernadette McGhie of Enable Law is a member of the Baby Lifeline multi-professional advisory panel and has been assisting the charity in a review of training provision in maternity units across the NHS. Baby Lifeline is also running a special campaign for everyone to support their local trust to raise vitals funds for equipment,
It is essential that all births are monitored carefully and appropriately and staff must be trained to recognise the early signs of problems and to act accordingly. Staff training is key to this and staff need to know when and how to escalate their concerns. Failure to adequately fund maternity units in terms of numbers and expertise of staff as well as failing to provide essential equipment is not cost effective. The overall costs on a personal level to the babies and mothers damaged by failures in care and their families, as well as the financial costs to the NHS and economy far exceed the short term cost of investment in the NHS maternity services.
We have a team of people who specialise in dealing with claims for compensation arising out of these mistakes, and see first hand the impact that baby death and brain injury has on the families that we work with.
It is a concern that this amount of deaths and serious injuries are felt to be avoidable but fantastic that those concerned are committed to making an urgent change. We represent many families whose lives have been changed irrevocably by the birth of a child seriously brain damaged by asphyxia during labour or the very sad event of stillbirth or neonatal death. It is far reaching and devastating and we hope that the report published today will reduce the number of families who are affected.
As well as experienced solicitors, we also have an in house Midwife. Liz Laws has been a Registered Midwife for 12 years and has been working in the medical negligence sector for 7 years. She has dealt with a significant number of stillbirth, neonatal death and birth injury cases, advising lawyers on clinical issues as well as being able to discuss any concerns or queries parents may have regarding the care they received. Liz also has close contact with a number of the Baby Lifeline experts and can call on them, and other experts, for their opinions and input when parents would like answers.
If you have been affected by one of the issues discussed here, speak to us in confidence today on 08000 448488