Maternity care has been the focus of many news reports over the past year, and unfortunately, these have largely focussed on the failings of NHS trusts in providing safe and compassionate care to mothers and their families.
The Ockenden report was published six months ago and has now been followed by the East Kent report on maternity and neonatal services at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (East Kent Hospitals), published last week.
Both reports provide harrowing accounts of mothers and families who were not only provided with suboptimal care but in many circumstances were treated with contempt and a high degree of unprofessionalism.
The East Kent report does not set out detailed changes to specific areas of practice or management but instead highlights four areas of action East Kent Hospitals should take. The areas are as follows:
- Ensuring the NHS focuses on becoming better at identifying poorly performing units
- Providing care to patients and their families with compassion and kindness
- For specialties and areas within the NHS teamworking with a common purpose
- Responding to challenges with honesty
The review examined services at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital and William Harvey Hospital, both of which are under the responsibility of the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.
The investigation showed that had care been provided at nationally recognised standards, the outcome could have been different in 97, or 48% of the 202 cases assessed by the panel, and the outcome could also have been different in 45 of the 65 baby deaths, or 69% of these cases.
One of the overarching themes in both the Ockenden and East Kent report is the focus of trusts to encourage women to have ‘natural births’ even in cases where this represented a high risk to the women, and when offering a caesarean section would have been a much safer option. There was also a clear divide between midwives and obstetrics at both trusts and a culture of ‘us and them’ which led to a failure in requesting support and working together to put the health of the mother and baby first.
The damage was not all physical, and the East Kent report highlights the psychological effects on mothers and families as a result of the repeated lack of kindness and compassion, along with a failure of listening to mothers and their concerns. The report highlights that clinical competence is not enough, and that being open and honest with families by explaining what had happened, or what was going to happen, as well as being honest about mistakes was not happening enough. Instead, the responses would often be based on defensiveness and blame-shifting.
The report includes helpful information for professionals and families, along with accounts from those who have been affected by the care provided. A full copy of the report can be found here.
At Anthony Collins Solicitors we help women and families who have suffered trauma, both physical and psychological, as a result of childbirth and post-natal care. We have helped and are helping bereaved parents whose babies were cared for by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. A majority of our clients simply had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right, but the doctors and midwives around them refused to listen.
For more information
If you or someone you know has been affected by substandard care during or following childbirth, or your child has suffered a life-altering birth injury, please feel free to contact our personal injury and clinical negligence team for a confidential, no-obligation discussion about what we might be able to do to help.
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