Today marks the third annual World Patient Safety Day, organised by the World Health Organization (WHO). The theme of this year’s World Patient Safety Day is ‘Safe maternal and newborn care’. With COVID as a backdrop, it’s difficult to think of a time when the need to achieve this aim has been more important. 

Global maternal and fetal outcomes have deteriorated during the pandemic, with an increase in maternal deaths, stillbirth, ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and maternal depression, according to The Lancet Global Health report in June 2021. It’s particularly fitting that this should be the theme of World Patient Safety Day given the considerable disparity reported between high-resource and low-resource settings. There is a driving need to prioritise safe, accessible, and equitable maternity care as part of a strategic response to this pandemic and with an eye to future health crises.

In the run up to today, WHO has been highlighting some key global statistics: 

  • 810 women every day die because of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Around 6,700 newborns die each day, amounting to 47% of all under-5 deaths.
  • About 2 million babies are stillborn every year, with 40% occurring during labour.

WHO’s objectives are to raise awareness of these safety issues, engaging stakeholders to take action to improve maternal and newborn safety as well as advocating for the adoption of good practice at the point of care to prevent avoidable risks and harm. 

Since women’s experiences during childbirth are also affected by issues of gender equity and violence, World Patient Safety Day also highlights the important concept of respectful care and highlights its links with safety. 

As lawyers we have a part to play supporting the important work of NHS Resolution and others in ensuring that lessons are learnt when things go wrong in labour. These incidents can be catastrophic and life-changing. The resulting claims represent the largest area of spend for the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts’ (CNST) for clinical claims reported in 2020/21, accounting for 11% per cent of clinical claims by number, but accounting for 59% by value at almost £4.2 billion.

So today we are adopting the colour orange in place of our usual logo colouring. It’s a small but significant statement that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our clients in their work to achieve safer maternal and new born care. It’s intended as a gesture of respect and gratitude to all health and care workers that work so hard to provide safe, respectful maternal and newborn care.


If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail, please contact Joanna Lloyd, Partner.

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