Investigations into Birthing Injuries and Deaths are ‘Sub-Standard’ Says Report

By Blackwater Law

A report issued by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) indicates the quality and inclusiveness of investigations into baby deaths or severe head injuries in the immediate aftermath of birth is substandard in a significant proportion of cases.

Each Baby Counts

The report is based on the findings of a program known as Each Baby Counts, which was established and is led by Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and has thus far had over 900 cases of babies sustaining head or brain injuries shortly after birth reported to it, in many of these cases babies have died or been left severely brain damaged. The NHS probes subsequently set up to investigate these birthing injuries were – in more than 200 instances – found to be failing to meet standards set out in order to provide for learning from, and prevention of, future tragedies and instances of clinical negligence, and to help bring closure to the parents of victims. The program’s primary objective is to halve the number of baby deaths, head injuries or brain injuries by 2020.

In 2015 there were 800,000 births after at least 37 weeks of pregnancy, there were:

655 cases where babies sustained severe head / brain injuries;
147 baby deaths within 7 days of birth; and
Some 119 stillbirths.
In all of these cases the baby had been healthy prior to the onset of labour.

Parents Not Involved in 599 out of 800 Baby Death Investigations

Each Baby Counts emphasises that all NHS probes into instances of baby death, head injury or brain injury should be highly detailed and able to stand up to cross-examination, with experts from multidisciplinary teams and indeed parents involved at every stage. Shockingly however, in 599 of an initial 800 cases examined, parents were found not to have been involved at any stage, in any significant way. This understandably sits uncomfortably with many parents who have had babies succumb to head or brain injuries when medical best practice may not have been followed, and may have had to deal with inefficient, non-transparent investigations / probes into any potential failings or medical negligence.

Reached for comment on the program’s report, Professor Alan Cameron, RCOG vice-president and a consultant obstetrician based in Glasgow issued the following statement:

“When the outcome for parents is the devastating loss of a baby or a baby born with a severe brain injury, there can be little justification for the poor quality of reviews found. The emotional cost of these events is immeasurable, and each case of disability costs the NHS around £7m in compensation to pay for the complex, lifelong support these children need.”

Report Findings ‘Unacceptable’

Ministers reached for comment on the report indicated that its findings were ‘unacceptable’, and Director for Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives Louise Silverton joined them in condemning NHS practice in the cases examined, stating:

“All healthcare professionals must, of course, be rigorous in their practice… However, they are often working in systems that do not support best practice, and the safest and highest quality care as well as they should. Each one of these statistics is a tragic event, and means terrible loss and suffering for the parents. We must do all we can to reduce the chances of these occurring. This report shows that this is not the case and improvements are needed as a matter of urgency.”

Commenting on the issue of birth injuries, and particularly serious injuries causing death, head injuries or brain damage, Jason Brady, clinical negligence solicitor at Blackwater Law said:

“It is important that hospitals fully investigate all cases of babies being injured during birth. This assists with institutional learning and trying to ensure that the same medical errors are not made, thereby potentially preventing future clinical negligence, birth injuries and suffering.”

Birth Injury Compensation Advice

Free initial advice on birth injury compensation

If your child, or the child of a loved one was injured during birth and you believe mistakes on the part of the medical professional s caring for you played a part in causing these injuries – including a head injury or brain damage – you should contact the clinical negligence experts at Blackwater Law for free initial advice.

Call 0800 083 5500 to speak to a specialist clinical negligence solicitor today.