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Maternity blunders leave the NHS facing 364 negligence claims

Maternity blunders leave the NHS facing 364 negligence claims

NHS negligence claims have nearly doubled in the past decade after a string of maternity scandals, figures reveal today.

Daily Mail

The Health Service had 364 medical negligence claims for more than £3.5million last year, up on 191 in 2011/12, with more than three-quarters for maternity-related damages, NHS Resolution figures showed.

The 'very dire state' of NHS maternity services and unsafe midwife staffing levels are contributing to the rising number of high claims, medical experts warned.

It comes after a series of damning reports, including one that revealed pregnant women and new mothers are being abandoned by the NHS.

Lawyers warned overstretched midwives are juggling up to six pregnant women on maternity wards.

One mother, who is seeking a seven-figure payout after a birth left her son with cerebral palsy, said: 'I had to see my son on a deathbed all because they were not listening to us and were not willing to look into the situation for us.'

Figures show there are 4,522 fewer NHS midwives than a decade ago, from 26,208 in 2012 to 21,686 this year.

The NHS records claim values in bands, with £3.5million and upwards the top bracket.

The average payout for a maternity incident involving cerebral palsy or brain damage was £10.2million this year, up from £4.3million in 2011/12.

Peter Walsh, of charity Action Against Medical Negligence, said: 'The figures suggest to me that the ongoing problems with the quality of maternity services are contributing to this.

'There have been a lot of maternity scandals and maternity services are in a very dire state.' Larger claims are generally for 'catastrophic injuries' such as brain damage. He added: 'The biggest area where this occurs is with errors at childbirth which leave the baby with cerebral palsy or brain damage.'

Dr Kim Thomas, chief executive of the Birth Trauma Association charity, said: 'There isn't a culture of safety in some places, there can be an emphasis of trying a vaginal birth at all costs.

'Or sometimes they don't listen to parents when they say there's a problem – women's concerns are being dismissed.'

A series of scandals have laid bare failures in NHS trusts across the country. It was revealed last year that more than 200 babies and nine mothers died due to poor care at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust.

In Nottingham University NHS Trust, a probe found 46 babies suffered brain damage and 19 had been stillborn from 2010 to 2020.

Lisa Jordan, head of medical negligence at Irwin Mitchell, said: 'The reality is there is a shortage of midwives across every single maternity ward and Trust in England and Wales so there was always going to be an increase in claims.

'Historically you would have had your own midwife and she would stay with you. Now they could be covering four, five, or even six women all of whom are in labour.'

A spokesman for NHS Resolution, a special health authority, said: 'The introduction of the early notification scheme for obstetric cerebral palsy has meant that incidents which are likely to result in a claim are reported more quickly to NHS Resolution than previously, and so whilst this might look like an increase in reported numbers it is, in essence, an acceleration in the reporting of these matters which we can expect to balance out in later years.'

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