Maternity Negligence in the UK: Are Birth Injuries More Common Than We Realise?

Pregnant women with flowers

West Mercia Police launched an investigation into maternity negligence at two Shropshire hospitals on July 1, 2020. The investigation will focus on an alleged 40-year history of baby and maternal negligence and will assess 1200 cases.  In November 2019, a leaked interim report from a review noted the death of 42 babies and 3 mothers and brain injuries sustained by 51 babies between 1979 – 2017.

Is this an isolated situation or is the negligent care of mothers and newborns more widespread?

A Study of Maternity Negligence Claims in England Between 2000-2010

A study by NHS Resolution analyzed 5,087 maternity claims on the NHS Litigation Authority’s (NHSLA) claims database as of 1st April 2010, with an incident date between 1st April 2000 and 31st March 2010. Obstetrics and gynecology claims account for 20% of the number of all clinical negligence claims and 49% of the total value of compensation paid.

According to the 10-year study, the three most common areas of hospital negligence were related to:

  • Negligence during labor and the management of the process
  • Negligence associated with Caesarean sections
  • Negligence associated with a variety of areas leading to oxygen deprivation to the baby and brain damage. The most common form is Cerebral Palsy.

These three areas account for approximately 70% of the total figure of £3.1 billion, paid out on or expected to be paid, for all maternity claims.

However, according to the study, other areas in which negligence occurred during childbirth were:

  • Birth Tears – third and fourth-degree tears to the mother’s perineum and other areas.
  • Failure to correctly interpret Cardiotocography (CTG) scans or the failure to manage the results of the scan. This scan monitors the baby’s heart rate and picks up signs of distress.
  • Baby Shoulder Injuries
  • Injuries to the baby associated with the use of forceps and ventouse (suction)
  • Negligent use of anesthetic to the mother
  • Injuries to the mother, including those associated with negligently conducted Caesarean sections in which organs such as the bladder, bowel, ureters, and fallopian tubes were cut, as well as incorrectly performed episiotomies.
  • Rupture of the uterus
  • Retained products of conception (RPOC) – retention of the placenta and/or fetal tissue left in the uterus after a miscarriage, termination or delivery, and the failure to diagnose and provide treatment and prevent further complications.
  • Mistakes made in the interpretation of fetal ultrasounds  which could screen for conditions such as Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, heart or brain defects and other developmental abnormalities
  • Poorly managed pregnancy complications – eg pre-eclampsia can cause the mother to have high blood pressure, putting her at risk of stroke, HELLP syndrome, and organ failure.
  • Failure to assess, diagnose, and treat infections in mother and newborn. Some of these infections could include Sepsis and Group Strep B.

Failure to assess and manage a baby’s health eg. Failure to diagnose and treat neonatal hypoglycemia (NH) in infants can also result in devastating and irreversible brain damage.

NHS Resolution Report on Medical Negligence Claims  2018 /19

According to the NHS Resolution Annual report 2018/19, 10% of the medical negligence compensation claims made in 2018/19 related to obstetrics, however, the value of these claims represented 50% of the total paid out.

Clinical claims received

Is compensation available to mothers and babies?

The vast majority of births in the UK are carried out safely.  Unfortunately for a variety of complex reasons, mistakes can be made by midwives, consultants, surgeons, and other medical professionals resulting in potentially devastating consequences for mother and child.

Negligence associated with childbirth could take place before birth, during delivery, and after the delivery when assessing and monitoring the health of mother and child. You can find all the facts about birth control methods available on the market today on BirthControl.com.

Because pregnancy and childbirth negligence is a complex area it is always recommended to discuss your case with specialist birth injury solicitors with experience of successfully pursuing a variety of claims such as those relating to physical injuries, surgical errors especially those relating to Caesarean sections, failures incorrectly monitoring health or interpreting scans, or oxygen deprivation and brain injury to a baby, including cerebral palsy.

Devonshires Claims provides a ‘No Win No Fee’ agreement for birth injury claims, which means that there are no upfront costs to start your compensation claim. For more information on making a compensation claim contact our birth injury solicitors today on 0333 577 9444 or visit  https://devonshiresclaims.co.uk/services/child-birth-injury-compensation-claims /.

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