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Research compiled by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) as part of the Each Baby Counts program has unearthed worrying evidence that in 76% of cases examined during 2015 relating to birth injury and child deaths, the baby might have had a better outcome if they had received better quality care. The research has potentially damning implications for the standards of maternal care in the NHS, and could mean a significant number of families may be eligible to make medical negligence claims.
Of 1136 cases examined under the Each Baby Counts program, 11% (126 babies) culminated in intrapartum stillbirths, 14% (156 babies) in early neonatal death, and 75% (854 babies) in severe brain injuries to the child. In 76% of cases where there was sufficient investigation and evidence surrounding the circumstances of death or injury, researchers found reason to conclude that different care might have produced a better outcome for the child. If these findings were to be extrapolated to the general population – which saw more than 720,000 term babies born during the year of examination – it means potentially thousands of families nationwide have lost their child unnecessarily or had them sustain severe, long term brain injury as a result of poor care. Medical negligence solicitors point out that under such circumstances it may be possible to make birth injury to baby claims, brain injury claims, cerebral palsy claims, midwife negligence claims and hospital negligence claims, but the focus should always remain on preventing such terrible instances from happening in the first place.
Researchers also found that in 25% of cases, the investigations into the circumstances surrounding birth injuries and deaths were found to be insufficient, which raises the prospect that the levels of substandard care in our maternal services could in fact be even worse. Shockingly, of the 727 cases where the potential for a different outcome was identified, only 34% saw parents invited to be part of the review process, only 9% saw the involvement of an external (independent) panel member, neonatologists only took part in 68% of review processes, and where recommendations for improvement were made only 23% were specifically aimed at any given member(s) of staff.
A number of recommendations were issued by the RCOG as a result of the findings, with clinical issues and human factors both taken into account in order to reduce birth injuries: