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Collaborative evaluation of the Early Notification Scheme and Maternity Incentive Scheme

As specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, my colleagues and I see too often the impact on families as a result of maternity services failings, and we're regularly involved with families who are part of the NHS Resolutions Early Notification Scheme and Maternity Incentive Scheme. 

But what is done with the information obtained from these schemes to put in place measures to reduce poor outcomes for babies, mothers and families which is more often than not hugely traumatic and life-changing for all involved. 

So we're pleased to see the NHS Resolution (the NHS Trusts insurers) embark on a significant partnership with The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute (THIS Institute) at the University of Cambridge with the aim of the collaboration to evaluate the two key maternity safety programmes: the Early Notification Scheme (ENS) and the Maternity Incentive Scheme (MIS). We're keen to see the outcomes of the collaboration and to ensure that relevant third-party organisations are included in the review along with families who have been impacted.   Most importantly, we hope that lessons are learned and quickly learned to improve maternity safety. 

The purposes of the schemes

The ENS is designed to expedite the investigation of legal liability in cases of obstetric brain injury, facilitating early compensation payments where appropriate. 

The MIS, on the other hand, incentivises NHS Trusts to implement ten specific safety actions, with financial rewards for successful adoption. It is the suggestion that these programmes are crucial for enhancing the safety and quality of maternity care. 

But are they crucial, and are they working? 

Let's see what the evaluation outcome says but until significant investment is made into the NHS maternity services it may be that any improvement will be slow and as a result more families suffer detrimental outcomes.  

It's hoped that the evaluation will provide valuable insights into their effectiveness, impact on families and healthcare staff.  Both systems have a strong focus on reducing costs and time along with the hope that there is a reduction in the families additional trauma of litigation. 

Megan Bidder, Director of Safety & Learning at NHS Resolution said: “We are excited to collaborate with THIS Institute, and welcome this opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of our maternity schemes, understanding their strengths and areas for improvement, and importantly learning more about the impact of our schemes for families and NHS staff.”

Our focus

As a specialist medical law team that works with hundreds of families who have been impacted by poor maternity care (which is as a result of a variety of issues including staffing levels, insufficient supervision, requirement for increased training, lack of appropriate resources) we can see that there is still a long way to go to improve outcomes. Whilst working collaboratively, where appropriate to do so, with the NHS in resolving cases, the focus has to be on the families affected and what their needs are and how will they be met. Corners cannot and should not be cut.  It would be far more beneficial to avoid the injury in the first place and that has to be a priority focus. 

Many of our clients are unaware until many months after the birth of their child that the case is part of the ENS, and then unsure what that means.  It's also clear that in some cases they’ve been told that the ENS investigation shows no negligence but for those families who seek legal advice, however when we've investigated the matter with independent experts reviewing the pregnancy, labour and delivery in its entirety there is evidence of negligence.  So for families not seeking legal advice having had such a response from the ENS, firstly some key learning lessons are not being identified nor addressed and secondly, families are left without appropriate compensation to support their child’s needs which can be significant. 

So yes, this is good news. An evaluation is needed as we cannot continue with schemes that aren’t actually making a difference, and while we hope the findings are positive and there's obviously a financial focus, the true priorities are supporting those who have been affected and preventing it happening to others.

The evaluation report is anticipated later this year. 

How we can help

You can find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting families who have been involved with the Early Notification Scheme (ENS) and the Maternity Incentive Scheme (MIS), and who have been affected by poor maternity care at the dedicated section on our website