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Nearly half of England's maternity units require improvement data reveals

Analysis of data from health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that 48 per cent of maternity units in England require improvement.  Of those seven per cent of units have been found to pose a risk of avoidable harm. 

Key themes from an investigation has found that there is a lack of progress and continuing safety scandals.  The BBC has analysed CQC safety ratings for 137 maternity units across England, finding that 62 had a good rating for safety, 66 required improvement and nine were inadequate. None were rated as outstanding for safety which is incredibly concerning for patients as a rating of outstanding means that a comprehensive system is in place. 

The CQC has said that in most cases, pregnancy and birth are a positive and safe experience for women and their families … but when things do go wrong, it is important to understand what happened and whether the outcome could have been different.  

I often find that when women come to me seeking advice, the key question they have is ‘could this have been avoided’.  Litigation can help find the answers to this and assist with highlighting key areas of change for maternity units.

Improving services 

To improve maternity services in England, staffing issues is a key issue to combat. 

The Royal College of Midwives has said there's an ongoing crisis in maternity services and funds are needed to support this.  It's noted that the NHS in England needs a further 2,000 midwives and 500 more obstetricians.  The government recently invested £127 million for the NHS maternity workforce and this is hoped to assist.

Recognising and campaigning the need for change in maternity safety is also key and Irwin Mitchell has been working closely with the BBC as part of the investigation into maternity services.  We will continue to offer training and support to both NHS professionals by webinars and in person training sessions to save babies’ lives and prevent injury.  

Supporting families

At Irwin Mitchell we see a high number of maternity cases involving Hospital Trusts across the country come to us. 

As a medical negligence solicitor, I've supported families following stillbirths, neonatal deaths and birth injuries and I have seen first hand how failures in care from lack of maternity safety affects families.  It is incredibly hard for families to learn that failures in care could have been prevented.

A big part of my role as a solicitor is signposting families for additional support.  Irwin Mitchell has specialist rehabilitation and support co-ordinators who offer support to families. 

As a solicitor, I signpost to charities who can offer additional support and there are several specialist charities in England who specialise in maternity safety.

SANDS is a charity which specialises in supporting families who have suffered with stillbirth and neonatal deaths.  It's a safe place for people to grieve and to find support, whether you are a parent, sibling, grandparent, NHS professional or a friend.

More information can be found on the SANDS website

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting families affected by maternity care issues at our dedicated birth injuries section.

More than half of maternity units in England fail consistently to meet safety standards, BBC analysis of official statistics shows.”