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£3 million funding to support the Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth programme

5 Nov 2021

We welcome the announcement from the Patient Safety Minister today that NHS maternity staff will benefit from a further £3 million to improve the safety of the women and babies they care for. 

The funding will support the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and The Healthcare Improvement Studies (THIS) Institute to deliver the second phase of a programme to reduce brain injuries at birth, which can have a devastating impact on babies and their families.

Under today’s announcement, the RCOG, in partnership with the RCM and THIS Institute, will develop a national programme to roll out tools and training products. It will also seek to address workplace culture factors, such as ensuring midwives and obstetricians are working together to deliver safe care. For example:

  • the development and testing of national tools to monitor and identify any deterioration in the baby’s health during childbirth;
  • training for midwives and doctors focusing on teamwork, cooperation and positive working relationships, alongside technical skills, is being developed and pilot tested;
  • a strategy to improve national databases to help identify what enables excellent care, bringing together CQC reports and published data on national brain injury rates; and
  • A childbirth safety culture toolkit to be developed and piloted which will include a new approach to ensure the whole system learns from good practice and mistakes.

Patient Safety Minister Maria Caulfield said:

“I want every mother and baby to get the best possible care and start to life and am committed to supporting our dedicated NHS staff to make positive changes, backed by over £5 million of investment.

“The second phase of this vital programme will help us improve maternity care and prevent mothers and babies from suffering the trauma of a brain injury during birth.

“I thank the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for leading the work to roll out tools and training to support maternity teams to provide excellent care.”

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said:

“While rare, brain injury to a baby is devastating for the mother and her family, and even more so when those injuries could have been avoided. We must do all we can to prevent this happening and this latest funding is a boost to that end. 

“The call from women, midwives and doctors is clear. They want and need support, tools, training, and systems to stop these tragedies happening. This welcome injection of money and the work it will fund will take us further towards reducing brain injury around birth, and the RCM along with our partners in this initiative will continue to work to hard to make this happen. There is more work to be done but this is another positive step in the right direction.”  

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

“We are delighted that funding has been awarded to our collaboration to deliver phase two of the Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth (ABC) programme. By drawing on expertise from across the health sector, and listening to the experiences of women and their families, we are developing tools to support maternity units in providing the best possible care to pregnant women and their babies, and establish clear processes for effective fetal monitoring.

“Any event of avoidable brain injury is tragic, for the newborn, for the family, and for the midwives and obstetricians involved. All maternity staff want to ensure that both mother and baby have the best possible outcomes. The development of these approaches to monitor babies is key to supporting maternity staff to safely deliver babies.

“We are grateful to all the women and healthcare professionals who have been involved with the design of this national programme. This collaborative approach has provided us with a robust base on which to build as the programme enters the second stage.”

Professor Mary Dixon-Woods, Director of The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute, said:

“The outstanding feature of the Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth (ABC) programme is that it’s co-designed with maternity staff and those using maternity services. By combining clinical expertise, lived experiences, and the best possible scientific evidence in this area, ABC will  support better identification of when babies are deteriorating and the right escalation and action when babies need it. ABC will also address the challenges of impacted fetal head at caesarean section – a problem that needs to be addressed through high quality training and support.”

“This is a wonderful chance for maternity staff and those using maternity services to get involved at in co-designing education, training and a cultural toolkit.”

Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, said:

“The NHS is committed to improving safety for women and babies in maternity services, and this second phase of the Avoiding Brain injuries in Childbirth programme is the next step in making the NHS the best place in the world to give birth.

“These new tools - to spot warning signs at an earlier stage - will help keep families and their babies safe from life-changing brain injuries and achieve our goal to halve brain injuries during birth by 2025.”


For media enquiries please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)7740 175342 or email


Notes to editors

  • Corporate
  • Pregnancy and birth