There are approximately 650,000 babies born in England and Wales each year, many of these births are delivered safely, but sadly not all. Where negligence has occurred which results in injury to the mother or baby, or worse, there are several schemes within the NHS that are there to investigate what has occurred.
In 2014 the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists launched a national quality improvement programme called Each Baby Counts. The scheme ran until 2020 with the aim of reducing the “number of babies who die or are left severely disabled as a result of incidents occurring during term labour”.
Since then, there has been several schemes in place to investigate and improve services; the main two of them being:
Healthcare Safety Investigations Branch
If negligence has occurred then in the first instance, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch [HSIB] is the organisation which investigates. HSIB conducts independent investigations of patient safety concerns in NHS Hospitals in England and identifies the contributory factors and problems.
Since 2017, they have been responsible for all NHS patient safety investigations of maternity incidents which meet criteria for the Each Baby Counts programme.
HSIB also carries out regular reviews into maternity investigations to identify recurring themes. One such theme was delays in interventions during labour (intrapartum) once there were signs indicating that a baby may not be well. The reviews have identified issues such as inadequate staffing, poor infrastructure, and high workload as contributory factors to the delays.
NHS Early Notification
Another system set up in April 2017 by the NHS is the Early Notification Scheme which investigates serious brain injuries that happen to children at birth. Run through NHS Resolution, it aims to speed up investigation and give families answers where negligence may have resulted in these injuries.
Once HSIB has completed their investigation, if there is evidence of serious brain injuries caused by negligence, they will pass their report on to NHS Resolution who will assess whether the criteria for the Early Notification Scheme has been met.
If this is the case, a further specific investigation will take place to establish whether the level of care provided was sub-standard to such an extent that the family should receive compensation and to look at what steps can be taken to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
During the NHS Early Notification stage, you may wish to seek independent legal advice.
What Are Common Birth Injuries?
Birth injuries can occur to mother, baby, or both and can range in severity. The most common injuries to mother include, perineal tears, surgical errors, haemorrhage, retained placenta, and damage to organs.
The most common injuries to the baby include, brain damage, cerebral palsy, erb’s palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), kernicterus, newborn cephalohematoma, hydrocephalus, spinal cord injuries.
Not all birth injuries occur as a result of medical negligence; however, where medical negligence has occurred, it is important that this is investigated thoroughly in order to provide answers for the families involved.
If the midwives and maternity care team are of the view that mistakes have happened there is a duty of candour to report such incidents to the HSIB who will then work closely with those involved to investigate the case. Within the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, 500 cases were reported, in around 100 of those cases care was felt to be substandard.
It is at this juncture that it is imperative that those impacted seek independent legal help.
Here at Farleys we also believe that each baby counts and each family who has had traumatic birthing experiences due to negligence should have the opportunity to seek answers and redress.
We have acted for babies who have been severely affected as a result of negligence before, during or soon after birth. These cases are often complex and take time to conclude given the difficult nature and high value. We pride ourselves on offering the best legal service, compassionately guiding these families on what are very emotional journeys.
For a free, no-obligation assessment of your case, please get in touch with our specialist birth injury claims solicitors on 0845 287 0939. Alternatively, you can email us or use the online chat below.