The cost of payouts for errors during maternity care continues to rise with the latest published figures now exceeding £1 billion, more than double the figure a decade ago. However, trusts are failing to learn from past mistakes and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is calling for improvement to reduce payments and feed more money back into patient care.
One of the difficulties with obstetric claims is that injury is often profound, leading to lifelong care which is high cost.
Infant mortality during or following delivery is also under the scrutiny with the publication of a new study by the University of Leicester and a survey published in the Lancet. Both indicate that for a developed nation, Britain is lagging behind its counterparts in providing safe maternity services with infant mortality being the second worst in Europe, 33rd in the world and 1 in 150 births resulting in stillbirth or death soon after delivery.
Recent tragic cases have highlighted a lack of consensus in some units as to appropriate levels of intervention with poor communication between doctors and midwives being cited as a contributory factor in problems experienced at the Morecambe Bay Trust. Following higher than average infant mortality an investigation into the maternity services over the period January 2004 – June 2013 was undertaken. This concluded that the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital was dysfunctional and that found that there were serious concerns over clinical practice at that hospital.
However, it seems that opportunities to learn from this and other tragedies are still being missed and a focus on patient safety through better training and learning from past experience will benefit patients in the future.