November 8, 2013

Report highlights rise in maternity negligence cases

Birth injury legal experts at Withy King have welcomed today’s report on ‘Maternity services in England’ released by the National Audit Office.

[caption id="attachment_2850" align="alignnone" width="297"]Simon Elliman, Partner, Withy King Photo caption: Simon Elliman, Partner, Withy King[/caption]

The report raises significant concerns over the standards of medical care on NHS maternity wards.

Simon Elliman, Head of Clinical Negligence at Withy King, said the firm endorsed the core findings of the report and in particular, the need for improved staffing levels on NHS wards alongside much improved training and supervision of clinical staff. He emphasised that better standards would reduce the number of medical negligence claims.

The father of one of Withy King’s clients, who was recently awarded a £6m settlement for avoidable birth injuries which led to cerebral palsy, was interviewed (anonymously) on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Simon Elliman, who acted on behalf of this client and is a nationally-renowned specialist in birth injury cases, said:

“The purpose of the National Audit Office report was to review whether the standards of care on maternity wards had improved since the implementation of the 2007 Maternity Matters strategy. The statistics provided in the report make for very concerning reading and reflect the stories we regularly hear from mothers who have suffered poor care during pregnancy and the delivery of their baby. In 2011 one in 133 babies was stillborn or died following birth, a rate which requires improvement.

“The report also comments on an increased level of clinical negligence claims, and on “wide unexplained variations” between trusts in relation to complication rates. While it is often easy to make a scape goat of the lawyers who represent the victims of medical errors, it is worth remembering that if standards rise, legal claims will fall.

“The statistics provided in the audit report certainly make for concerning reading, but it’s imperative that these issues are aired and discussed so that they can be addressed. Where there is poor maternity care, the effects on the mothers and babies involved can be devastating, and the outcomes which we see for our clients and their families are heart breaking; the NHS care services to support families with disabled children are wholly inadequate and cannot provide for children with cerebral palsy as they require, and so when severe outcomes occur it is necessary for families to seek compensation in order for proper care to be provided.”

The National Audit Office report on ‘Maternity services in England’ comments that: “Most women have good outcomes from NHS maternity services, but there are significant and unexplained variations in performance around the country……our findings on how services are being managed, demonstrate there is substantial scope for further improvement.”

Clinical negligence partners, Simon Elliman and Paul Rumley are available to comment on the core findings of the report. To arrange an interview or for further information, please contact Natalie Birrell on 07557 356860 or email [email protected]

Date of issue: 8 November 2013

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