Many will now hopefully have seen the NHS Litigation Authority 10 Years of Maternity Claims Report released on 26th October 2012 and had an opportunity to reflect on the considerable press coverage which followed. Described by David Richmond, RCOG Vice President (Clinical Quality) as "a serious wake-up call to all with responsibilities in providing maternity care" the report analyses maternity claims reported to the NHS LA as at 1 April 2010 (from incidents which occurred between 1 April 2000 and 31 March 2010) and is essential reading for those involved with the delivery of care.

The report, an important reminder of how the claims management process can contribute to patient safety, reaffirms that having a baby whilst under the care of NHS remains very safe. Less than one in a thousand births in England (5,087 out of 5.5 million in a ten year period) resulted in a legal claim against the NHS, but notwithstanding this, a number of key points of learning emerge:

General learning for maternity services

  • In many of the claims, junior doctors and midwives with less experience were involved in the management of the women and their babies. Junior doctors and midwives must be supported in their decision-making processes and there should be clear systems for escalation to senior clinicians in place. Effective multi-disciplinary team working, and mutual professional respect, is essential to the provision of safe care.
  • Maternity services must ensure that national guidance is considered and reflected appropriately within local guidelines and protocols. Such guidance must be current, accessible, understood and acted on by staff and reviewed regularly.
  • The detailed study shows a need for more effective training and development of staff. Dedicated programmes which are flexible enough to enable attendance at training sessions or completion of online learning are needed

Bevan Brittan were delighted to be involved with the study and if you have any questions relating to the NHS LA report or would like support to share the key learning points within your organisation please contact Joanna Lloyd .