Each Baby Counts – How Hospitals Can Prevent Medical Negligence Claims

4 Min Read

Hand holding a pencil over a checklistAccording to the latest Each Baby Counts report issued by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), 71% of the babies who were featured in the study could have had a different outcome, had different care been provided.

Here we’ll look at the findings of that report, and the suggestions it makes on how to prevent medical negligence. The RCOG launched the project four years ago, and now updates the report on a yearly basis. The current year in review is 2016.

Each Baby Counts

Nearly 700,000 babies were born in the UK in 2016 and 1,123 of those babies suffered an incident during their birth which made them eligible to be included in this report. To be included a baby must be stillborn, die during labour or the first week of life, or acquire a brain injury during birth.

The report has identified themes where improvements would have potentially led to a different outcome, including a failure by health professionals to identify or act on risk factors, issues related to monitoring while in the womb, and education and training issues within NHS staff.

Three areas were selected for a comprehensive study within the report: anaesthetic care, adherence to guidelines and barriers to reporting.

Each Baby Counts is intended to act as a quality improvement initiative, with the RCOG aiming to halve the number of babies who die or are left with severe disabilities by an incident during or shortly after labour by 2020.

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How to Prevent Medical Negligence Claims

With a focus on improved patient safety, the report makes several suggestions relevant to healthcare managers looking to reduce the chance of malpractice within their organisation:

Adhere to best practice guidelines

The 2016 report has shown that in almost half of the cases considered, NHS guidelines and best practice guidance had not been followed. The report traces the issues back to several concerns stemming from NHS funding issues – staffing levels, shortage of beds, access to training, and communication between team members.

It recommends that a clear escalation policy be put in place so that staff can raise concerns when their workload becomes too much, and that communication between teams should be improved so that vital information is not missed when a patient’s care is transferred, and that the labour ward coordinator should not lose oversight of the ward by being drawn into providing care.

Another element flagged in the report is an institutional reluctance to investigate why errors have occurred, with reviewers noting that many reports will stop investigating once the authors identify that a guideline has not been followed, rather than discovering the particular set of circumstances.

A focus on anaesthetic care

In many cases, anaesthetists were not involved in reviewing the care provided, even where anaesthetic was a key part of the incident. The RCOG feel that this could have resulted in missed opportunities to learn from their experiences.

Remove barriers which hinder reporting

It is of course understandable that internal pressures within NHS hospitals and wards would have a detrimental effect on the quality of investigations into adverse events.
Although, in this instance, the issues raised relate more closely to the way in which the Each Baby Counts report is compiled, improvements could still have a beneficial effect on patient safety.

In reviewing 2015, the RCOG found significant variation in how local investigations were conducted. They then implemented a process to provide feedback to units when their reports were not adequate, and this led to 79% of the re-submitted reports being found to now contain the required amount of detail.

Healthcare providers must find a way to standardise reporting so that opportunities to learn from mistakes are not missed by wasting crucial insight.

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We Are in Your Corner: Making a Medical Negligence Claim

We fully support any efforts which seek to effectively reduce the amount of medical negligence cases each year. However, we’re also on hand to help those who have been injured seek the compensation they deserve.

If your medical treatment has gone wrong and your life has been changed as a result, you may need financial security in order to bring your independence back. Speak to one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors to find out how we could help.