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£2.45m to improve maternity safety

News 5 July 2021

The health minister Nadine Dorries has announced £2 million in funding to go towards a new maternity safety project led by the RCOG, the Royal College of Midwives and The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute at the University of Cambridge.

Funding for the Avoiding Brain injury in Childbirth (ABC) collaboration will be used to develop a nationally agreed approach for how staff monitor the condition of a baby during labour. This will happen by:

  • testing different approaches to monitoring babies during labour and surveying maternity staff to see how midwives and obstetricians currently identify when a baby is in distress during labour and how they then deliver babies even more safely;
  • interviewing women and their birth partners on these varying approaches based on their personal experiences;
  • agreeing on a clear process to monitor babies and record readings during labour with a flowchart guide to decide when to escalate a case to the wider multi-disciplinary maternity team; and
  • developing a nationally agreed approach to delivering babies through caesarian birth when there are complications with the baby’s positioning.

An additional £449,000 has been provided by the Department of Health and Social Care to the RCOG to develop a new workforce planning tool to give maternity units in England a clear guide to determine how many medical staff they require in their specific setting.

Over the next year, RCOG will collaborate with and gather data from across the health sector to determine how the tool can help NHS Trusts to understand their own medical staffing needs, and provide standardised, safe and personalised care tailored to their communities. 

Dr Edward Morris, President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“We’re delighted to receive funding for a new workplace planning tool and project to reduce brain injuries in childbirth. This investment will go a huge way to improving the quality of care provided to pregnant women and their babies.

“We recognise that appropriate maternity staffing is fundamental to providing safe care for women and we hope this tool will give maternity units in England a clear guide to determine how many medical staff they require in their specific setting.

“The new project to avoid newborn brain injury in childbirth aims to address the challenges around effective fetal monitoring, building on the great work already being done in this area.  We understand that the impact of avoidable newborn brain injury is profound and we want to do everything we can to ensure no family has to experience it.”

Gill Walton Chief Executive at The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said:

“Every avoidable brain injury leaves families devastated and affects midwives and maternity staff. For the vast majority of women and their babies, the UK is a safe place to give birth. However, tragically avoidable brain injuries do happen. It’s imperative we work together in maternity serves to do all we can to reduce avoidable brain injuries during birth.

“Partnership working is the key to improving safety for women and their babies. This funding will enable the RCM and RCOG in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care to firstly review approaches to monitoring babies during labour and ultimately with more multi-disciplinary training in this area will go towards improving safety for women and their babies. Crucially, this review will also include the voices and personal experiences of women and their birth partners to enable maternity to inform better safer care.

“The RCM also welcomes the funding that has been allocated to the RCOG to develop a new maternity obstetric workforce planning tool, far too many maternity reviews have cited understaffing and the impact that has on safety in maternity services. The development of such a tool will bolster safety and improve on the current maternity staff skill mix which is key to delivering safe high-quality maternity care.”

Health minister Nadine Dorries said:

“I am determined to make sure as many mums as possible can go home with healthy and happy babies in their arms.

“This new programme, which we’re supporting with over £2.45 million, aims to spot warning signs earlier and save lives, preventing families and their babies from facing the horrific ordeal of a life-changing brain injury, and will help us deliver on our ambition to halve brain injuries during birth by 2025.

“Having the right maternity staff in the right place at the right time means they can learn from one another, give the best care for mums and babies and build a safe and positive environment for both staff and pregnant women in maternity teams across the country.”

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0) 7986 183167 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk. 

Notes to editors