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Health Secretary's announcement on maternity services

News 17 October 2016

Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said:

“We welcome the Government’s commitment and long-term investment into improving the safety of maternity care.  The UK is a safe place to give birth, however, the pressures on maternity services are growing and stretched and understaffed services affect the quality of care provided to both mothers and babies. Doctors and midwives must train and work in multi-professional teams to ensure that women receive a high quality and safe service. Putting patients at the centre of care is paramount, however, safety should always be the principal focus when making decisions around maternity care and childbirth.

“Reducing harm and the variation in care nationally must be a priority for all those providing maternity care. Through the new National Maternity and Perinatal Audit, the RCOG, in partnership with the RCM and RCPCH, will provide units across the country with high quality data that will enable them to benchmark their performance and identify priority areas for improving the safety and quality of the care they provide.

“In addition, through our Each Baby Counts initiative, we aim to halve the number of term stillbirths, early neonatal deaths and brain injuries occurring in the UK as a result of incidents during term labour by 2020. Currently, stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries occurring due to incidents in labour are investigated at a local level. The Each Baby Counts project team is, for the first time, bringing together the results of these local investigations to understand the bigger picture and share the lessons learned. The results of our first annual report suggest that there is clear need for more robust and comprehensive reviews. These should be carried out by multidisciplinary teams and include parental and external expert input. Additionally, we need to move to a more standardised national approach for carrying out these investigations to improve future care. We welcome the introduction of a new standardised perinatal mortality review tool which allows units to identify system-wide mechanisms for improving the quality of care.

“Stillbirth rates in the UK remain high and our current data indicate that nearly 1,000 babies a year die or suffer a severe brain injury because of potentially avoidable harm in labour. The emotional cost of these events is immeasurable and the cost of litigation in maternity care is around £500 million per year, which equates to about one fifth of the maternity budget. We therefore welcome the idea to consult on a new Rapid Resolution and Redress scheme to offer financial support and regular payments to affected families without always needing to bring a claim through the courts.

"The ability to raise concerns more easily has the potential to save lives and improve outcomes for both mothers and babies. Sometimes mistakes do happen and there is a continued need to build a culture of openness, honesty and transparency in order to prevent past mistakes being repeated."

ENDS

For more information, please contact the RCOG press office on 020 7045 6773, 07702 564111 (out of hours), or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.