Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Maternity units providing poor care

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals issued a stinging critique of maternity services care this week, following analysis of the results of inspections at 83 hospitals since April 2014.

Sir Mike Richards advised that “A significant number of units are providing or are at risk of providing elements of poor care. Almost a third are rated as requiring improvement and about 5% are inadequate, where we have the most serious concerns.”

For those supporting families of children injured in child birth as a result of negligent treatment, the highlighted areas of specific concern sadly come as no great surprise. Here at Clarke Willmott, cases arising from a failure to adequately monitor a baby’s heart rate during labour are all too familiar. Significant variations in the baby’s heart rate may be the first signs of foetal distress, requiring prompt action to deliver the baby safely. The fact that a number of maternity units do not yet appear to have grasped the seriousness of their failings in this regard is deeply concerning.

The absence of sufficiently senior and experienced clinicians at the point of delivery is another common cause of a failure in the standard of care, only too well recognised by the authors of the report and solicitors acting in this specialist area of practice.

Of the 83 hospitals inspected, concerns were identified in 33 maternity units. “A lack of staffing, poor learning from incidents and poor culture and leadership have all contributed to ratings of “requires improvement or inadequate” the Chief Inspector reported.

That some hospitals still maintain a defensive and secretive approach to errors made, rather than embracing a policy of openness, encouraging staff at all levels to learn from their mistakes, is of particular concern. The current proposal to fix legal costs in cases valued at less than £250,000 can only serve to restrict the number of investigations carried out where failings have occurred and without the prompt of those investigations, many clinicians will lose the opportunity to improve their practice that such enquiries provide.

If you have received treatment which concerns you and wish to discuss your experience contact Chris Thorne, a partner in our medical negligence team on 0117 305 6461 or