Government Responds to the Quality of Maternity Services

Geoffrey Simpson-Scott, Partner
Author:
Geoffrey Simpson-Scott
Partner, Head of Medical Negligence
Date:
23/11/2021

We know how important it is to protect women who are pregnant and their babies because we regularly see the impact of negligent maternity care on families. We wanted to look at the government’s responses to the report so that people are clear about what changes they can expect after this in-depth look at Maternity Services in England.

The Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) released a report called ‘The Safety of Maternity Services in England’ in July this year. The government has now responded to this report, giving a response to each recommendation separately.

We’ll look at the recommendations in sections, starting with Supporting Maternity Services and Staff to Deliver Safe Maternity Care, which including funding for staff, staffing levels, money for training staff and training targets.

We’ll talk through the HSCC recommendations in turn, the government response and our opinion on them.

HSCC Recommendations and Our Views On The Government Responses

Recommendation 1 - Increase the budget for maternity services by £200 - £350m per year immediately to pay for safe staffing levels.

It’s disappointing that the government has only said that it is considering this recommendation. Staffing levels are critical in keeping mothers and babies safe when they are using maternity services and more money to increase staffing levels is needed.

There has been a recent investment of £95m by NHS England and NHS Improvement. A significant amount of this money will be spent on recruiting 1,200 more midwives and 100 consultant obstetricians.

But this amount is a long way off the recommendation in the HSCC’s report and more work will need to happen to make sure there are safe staffing levels in maternity units across England.

Although it’s welcome news that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is developing a new tool to help maternity units calculate appropriate staffing levels, the money needs to be provided to make this work in practice.

Recommendation 2 - Work with RCOG and Health Education England (HEE) to deliver adequate and sustainable levels of obstetrics training posts so deliver safe staffing, including anaesthetic staff

We’re pleased that the government has accepted this recommendation and talks about existing training places and posts.

We know that it’s critical to give the right training to all maternity staff and hopefully the government will put some detail into this recommendation and timescales for the delivery.

Recommendation 3 - Ringfence some of the maternity budget for training in the Maternity Units

Protecting the budget for training, and allowing maternity staff enough time to improve their skills, are important parts of preventing avoidable harm to mothers and babies. Our clients often tell us that they hope the lessons learned from their cases are used to prevent the same errors happening again to other mothers and babies.

The government is putting in place a Core Competency Framework, which will provide the same training across England. ‘Significant areas of harm’ training will be included across all maternity services.

Recommendation 4 - Updated safety training targets should be put in place and enforced.

The government accepts this recommendation and has already reviewed training recommendations. The Core Competency Framework has been developed to make sure all training standards are the same across units.

A Registry of Recommendations is also being developed so new training needs can be identified.

A programme called ‘Avoiding Brain Injury’ will look to standardise foetal monitoring and develop support tools as part of this training.

Just the Start

These are the first 4 of 15 recommendation from the report and we know that training and funding will help to raise standards in maternity services and will help staff to feel better equipped.

We really hope that the government put these recommendations in place quickly to help protect women and their babies.

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