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Action needed to reduce number of preventable birth injuries

Author: Gail Harris

A recent report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has called for urgent improvements in maternity care reporting as inconsistencies are leaving babies vulnerable.

The report was based on research carried out on more than 2,500 expert assessments that had been prepared following brain injuries, neonatal deaths and stillbirths occurring during full-term labour in 2015.

However, as much as 25 per cent of local reporting was found to be inadequate and some reviews had not even been started. Even more concerning was that some of the incidents had not been investigated at all and where assessments had been carried out, over a third of them had not involved the parents.

John McQuater, partner and head of litigation at Atherton Godfrey, commented: “These findings are very concerning. Investigations must be robust and consistent so that proper conclusions can be drawn about the quality of care that the mothers and babies have received. Involving parents in the reviews is absolutely essential if the findings are to be accurate and meaningful.”

During 2015, of the 723,251 term babies born in the UK, 1136 were injured. This includes 854 severe brain injuries, 156 neonatal deaths and 126 stillborn intrapartum deaths.

The research programme, called “Every Baby Counts” aims, to be a ground breaking long-term inquiry that will help deliver improvements in maternity care. The overall aim of the programme is to halve the number of babies that die or are left severely disabled as a result of preventable incidents during labour, within the next three years.

Following the research an interim report was published in June 2016 that made a number of recommendations on how to ensure a consistent approach was taken to investigating preventable incidents.

The recommendations include introducing mandatory documented evidence of annual training for all staff interpreting continuous cardiotocography (CTG) results, data sharing tools to help easily identify risks and timely and consistent information about risk factors that have been identified.

In addition, the report recommends there must be a senior member of staff who retains an overview of what’s happening in the delivery suite to prevent important details or new information from being overlooked.

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