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NHS maternity services under further scrutiny

Following the Ockenden report, the Mumsnet survey for the Times Health Commission has raised fresh questions over NHS maternity services in England after scandals that have highlighted serious safety concerns and cover-ups in some units.

The Times Commission found that the NHS was spending more than twice as much on the cost of harm caused by maternity services as on maternity care itself, which evidencing the serious safety concerns.

The survey has identified that nearly a quarter of mothers say that the maternity care they received left them or their baby in danger. Almost a third were not given all of the medical care they needed at the birth at 9% said their baby did not get all the necessary care. A quarter of mothers rated the maternity care they had received during the past five years as "poor" and 23% believed they or their baby had been put at risk.

Of 1,018 participants, several discussed that they had been given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and some reported terrifying flashbacks. One mother said she had suffered long term trauma since the birth of her baby. Having been refused an epidural, despite requesting one, she said that the hospital used her as a guinea pig for students to perform her stitches, without anaesthetic and without her consent.

One woman described she was left alone for too long whilst waiting for her caesarean section. She went onto say that the previous scar had ruptured and her son suffered a stroke on delivery. Her baby now suffers from cerebral palsy as a result.

The Times Commission found that almost 60% of respondents said they did not feel listened to by healthcare professionals. One mother said she "wasn’t allowed pain relief" as a consultant "mistakenly mixed" her notes up with another patient who had a history of substance abuse.  It's clear that concerns in maternity services remain, with this report only strengthening the argument that changes needs to be made.

Sadly, in my role as a medical negligence expert I see first-hand the impact that failings in maternity care have on clients, with many devastated families left needing access to lifetime care or specialist support.

Meanwhile, Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts has said that there's no doubt that maternity staff are stretched to their limit, but this is a cultural problem which sees women ignored and their concerns trivialised.

The participants were asked what would have made a difference in their experience, with one mother saying that midwives with empathy, she noted that it was apparent that they disliked their jobs.

The Care Quality Commission rated 39% of maternity units inspected in England as requiring improvement or inadequate last year. It's extremely worrying that concerns remain nationally about maternity safety and it's important that there's now lasting change. In the meantime we continue to support families nationally but also campaign for change.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting families affected by maternity care issues at our dedicated medical negligence section.

The stories about some of the families we're supporting following care issues can be found at the maternity safety section of our website.