How do I know if I have received poor maternity care?

Having a baby is supposed to be one of the happiest moments of your life, however, if your pregnancy or birthing experience wasn’t quite what you expected, it can dramatically impact those first precious moments with your newborn.

This can often be accompanied by feelings of guilt, anxiety and helplessness at the situation. However, if you believe you have suffered poor care, or feel that your outcome could have been different with the appropriate level of care then there are steps you can take which may help in providing answers.

Maternity scandals across the NHS

It is well publicised that NHS maternity wards are under increasing pressure and NHS England have committed an additional £95 million funding for maternity services to improve safety and increase the number of midwives. A lack of funding, increased staff turnover and other pressures, including the allocation of resources during the Coronavirus pandemic, have led to a rising number of NHS scandals and investigations including:

If your maternity care was provided by one of these NHS Trusts you understandably may have questions or concerns as to whether you were also affected by substandard care. However, the frequency of maternity scandals being published, paints a picture that unfortunately poor maternity care can occur anywhere.

Poor maternity care doesn’t just mean during labour

Often there is a misconception that poor maternity care relates only to labour and giving birth, however, maternity care relates to the care you receive from the moment you find out you are pregnant through to after the birth. Poor maternity care can relate to midwife appointments, ultrasound scans, the care provided at hospital by consultants, obstetricians and midwives, as well as appointments post birth. It is also likely that poor care may relate to multiple elements, for example a failure of a midwife to refer for additional scans, and the failure of the sonographer to identify a condition relating to either mother or baby.

What constitutes poor maternity care?

Whilst there is almost an inexhaustible list of things that can construe poor or negligent maternity care. Examples include:

  • Failure to listen or act on a mother’s concern for her baby – such as reduced fetal movements
  • A shortage of staff impacting on the care being provided, for example, delaying a baby’s induction due to lack of consultant availability
  • Failure to act in accordance with published guidelines or policy, i.e. pushing a ‘normal vaginal’ birth without allowing a mother the chance to have an elective c-section

In some instances, it will be obvious that poor care has taken place and the hospital or NHS Trust may even notify you directly. This could be through a letter of apology or may result in a Serious Incident report being issued. However, more commonly, parents are often unsure as to whether their experience was due to poor or negligent care and can feel confused and helpless.

What can be done about poor maternity care?

If you feel you or your partner received poor maternity care, there are a number of steps that can be taken.

If you are pregnant and are concerned about the level of care you are receiving, for example from your midwife, it is often most appropriate to raise this directly with your midwife. However, if you feel unable to speak to them directly about the care they are providing you should be able to find the Head of Midwifery at your local Trust through the Trust website and you could contact them directly.

If you have given birth, the first step is to make a complaint against the hospital or NHS Trust who provided the care. Under the NHS Constitution, patients have a right to make a complaint about the care that they have received. Depending on where the care was provided the complaint should be directed at the relevant provider i.e. hospital, GP surgery.

The NHS must investigate your complaint and should advise you of the steps that they will take during the course of your complaint.

If you have had a traumatic or difficult birth, you may be notified by the NHS Trust that you can meet with them to discuss your experience. This is often called a “birth reflections” programme and is designed to allow the opportunity to ask questions about your experience and to fill in any gaps as well as understand why things happened. This meeting can act as an important stage for both parents to find out more about the care they received. However, birth injury solicitors, Blackwater Law, find all too frequently that parents are not informed about this service. If you feel that you could benefit from this, it is worth contacting your NHS Trust to find out if this is something they offer. It may also be possible to discuss your concerns during the course of this meeting, as well as assessing whether a further complaint is necessary from your perspective.

Speaking to a specialist birth injury solicitor

If you are unsure of the next step or If after making your complaint you still feel you have unanswered questions, or did not receive the level of investigation you feel you were entitled too, the advice of a specialist birth injury solicitor can be pivotal in securing answers, financial compensation and even private medical care.

Poor care doesn’t have to be accepted.

Speak to a Birth Injury Solicitor for free advice

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