The report follows a detailed analysis of all stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries sustained during childbirth across the UK in 2015, tragically 1,136 babies.

The analysis found that with different care, the outcomes might have been different for three-quarters of these babies. Warningly, this figure might be higher, as in over 400 incidents the local hospital investigation was so lacking that they couldn't analyse the care provided sufficiently.

The statement that there might have been ‘a different outcome with different care’ glosses over the gravity of the situation. In other words, if the care provided to over 700 mothers and babies in 2015 was better, those babies would have survived or not suffered a brain injury.

The analysis identified key areas for improvement, including monitoring the baby’s heartbeat during labour even though, the use of a cardiotogography (CTG) machine is standard practice in hospitals and has been for many years. The report makes recommendations regarding the use of this equipment, including to ensure that all relevant staff have annual training regarding monitoring. The co-principal investigator, Professor Zarko Alfirevic, explains

“Problems with accurate assessment of fetal well-being during labour and consistent issues with staff understanding and processing of complex situations, including interpreting fetal heart rate patterns, have been cited as factors in many of the cases we have investigated.”

Sadly, we have seen many cases where babies suffer injury or do not survive because staff missed the warning signs of the baby being distressed during labour, passing the opportunity to deliver before any harm was done.

We have brought many clinical negligence cases against hospitals across the country where errors were made with fetal heartbeat monitoring and CTG recordings. One of our clients brought a case arising from care received during labour at City Hospital in Birmingham. The staff incorrectly assessed the stage of labour the mother was in, which led to insufficient CTG monitoring and a failure to recognise the baby was suffering during protracted labour. Sadly, the baby did not survive.

Another client brought a case relating to care received during labour at, what was then, Dudley Hospital. The midwives failed to recognise the CTG showed the baby was distressed during labour, which meant the opportunity was missed to deliver her quickly. She suffered a brain injury due to lack of oxygen during birth, which led to cerebral palsy.

CTG monitoring is considered to be a critical area where improvements must be made to ensure the lives and wellbeing of mothers and babies in the future. The NHS has been running a national campaign, Saving Babies’ Lives, which mandates that all staff who care for women in labour must have annual training on CTG interpretation.

The campaign found that one in every 200 babies in the UK is stillborn, which is more than double the rate of nations with the lowest rates and that failing to understand CTG monitoring was an important factor in this.

For more information

For more information regarding clinical negligence cases arising from inadequate care of babies and mothers during labour, please contact Ann Houghton who will be happy to speak with you on an initial free, no obligation basis.

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