Call for new safety training fund in wake of maternity scandalsLara-Joyce Roa
Call for new safety training fund in wake of maternity scandals.
An open letter to Boris Johnson has demanded the reinstatement of the “maternity safety training fund” in next week’s budget.
The letter also called for funding allocations to be based on the specific needs of each NHS organisation and for “rigorous” annual audits from independent bodies into maternity training.
“The cost in lost and broken lives is indefensible”
Sir Robert Francis
It was signed by several influential health safety voices, including Donna Okenden, who is leading the review into Shewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.
The trust is in the midst of one of the NHS’s largest maternity scandals – with more than 900 families now having come forward to have their cases reviewed.
Dating back to the 1970s, investigations are underway into claims of clinical malpractice by doctors, midwives and hospital leaders.
There is currently another maternity review underway into East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which is being probed about up to 15 cases of baby deaths.
The £8.1m fund was introduced in 2016 in a one-off investment following recommendations from a government maternity safety action plan.
The money went towards implementing training packages in areas such as team leadership, multi-professional team working and communication, human factors training, foetal growth and monitoring.
Funded by Health Education England, the training was evaluated and found to have positively impacted everyday practice, empowered staff, increased staff knowledge and improved patient safety.
The letter was written by charity Baby Lifeline, whose founder Judy Ledger described it as “a powerful combined voice” from maternity experts.
“When a woman is injured during childbirth, this can also be long-lasting and devastating. Lives can change forever.
“For the health professionals involved, it will also be something that they will never forget or be able to come to terms with.”
The charity has asked for an absolute minimum value of £19m per year, with £7m covering the direct costs of training and £12m to allow trusts to “backfill” the workforce when training is taking place.
Signatories also include Sir Robert Francis, author of the 2013 report into failings at Mid Staffordshire, Dr Bill Kirkup, author of the 2015 report into maternity care at Morecambe Bay, and James Titcombe, a patient safety campaigner whose baby son died during the Morecambe Bay scandal.
Dr Kirkup noted: “There have been real improvements in maternity services, but as recent events in Kent and Shropshire have shown only too clearly, much more remains to be done.
“The maternity safety training fund is badly needed.”
“For the health professionals involved, it will also something be that they will never forget”
Sir Robert said: “The cost in lost and broken lives, not to mention the unsustainable financial burden and the distress of staff caused by these avoidable mistakes, is indefensible.”
Obstetric claims cost the government £2.5bn in 2018-19 – and maternity cases made up 50% of all NHS negligence claims.
The letter states that based on current statistics, England can expect to see 2,400 stillbirths, 1,680 neonatal deaths and 1,560 cases of brain injury at birth each year.
The proposal has been backed by the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want the NHS to be the safest place in the world to give birth, helping families avoid the unimaginable pain of losing a baby. We’re committed to transforming maternity services as part the NHS Long Term Plan, backed by an extra £33.9bn a year by 2023-24.
“As part of wider efforts to improve maternity safety, we are working hard on options to provide central support for maternity training.”
Baby Lifeline has also begun a petition to reinstate the fund.
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