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Health Minister Apologizes as Inquiry Exposes ‘Shockingly Poor’ Maternity Care in the UK

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Health minister expresses regret following a report on birth trauma highlighting 'alarmingly substandard' maternity services

The investigation revealed that subpar postnatal care was a "nearly ubiquitous issue," with numerous women recounting experiences of remaining in "blood-soaked linens or ringing the bell for assistance without response".

Monday, May 13, 2024, 6:

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A health minister has issued an apology following a report which found that substandard practices in maternity care are often accepted as standard.

The legislative investigation revealed that maternity services were of "alarmingly low quality," leading to uncompassionate care and a culture where substandard treatment is often accepted as the norm.

Chaired by Conservative MP Theo Clarke and Labour MP Rosie Duffield, the Birth Trauma Inquiry reviewed testimonies from over 1,300 women and has advocated for a nationwide strategy to enhance maternity services.

The report revealed that substandard postnatal care was a nearly ubiquitous issue.

The report described women recounting experiences of being ignored while in blood-soaked bedding or calling for assistance without receiving any response.

The report includes 12 suggestions, one of which proposes the establishment of a maternity commissioner who would report directly to the prime minister.

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A persistent issue

Health Minister Maria Caulfield acknowledged to Sky News that maternity services had fallen short of expectations and extended an apology to the mothers who were impacted.

"Ms. Caulfield acknowledged that maternity services have not met our expectations, but she emphasized that significant efforts are underway to improve this area."

"The issue has persisted over an extended period, which is why focusing on maternity care is a key component of the strategy for women's health."

She stated that the purpose of the investigation is to improve prenatal care for pregnant women instead of delaying until they are near delivery.

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A report from the Department of Health and Social Care revealed that in 2022/23, over a third of the NHS' allotted budget for maternity and neonatal services, amounting to approximately £1.1 billion, was expended on settlements related to clinical negligence.

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The suggestions from the Birth Trauma Inquiry propose additional training and the hiring of more midwives, establishing a dedicated postpartum check-up at six weeks with a GP for all mothers, offering assistance to fathers or chosen birth partners, and enhancing education for women regarding their options during childbirth.

The proposal suggests increasing the duration in which one can file legal cases concerning medical malpractice during childbirth from three to five years.

Suggestions from the Birth Trauma Inquiry

The Birth Trauma Inquiry focuses on examining the experiences of childbirth and identifying ways to enhance maternity services across the UK.

The report strongly recommends the creation of a National Maternity Improvement Strategy, overseen by a maternity commissioner who would report directly to the prime minister.

This enhancement plan will detail the subsequent 12 suggestions aimed at establishing a foundational benchmark for maternity services throughout the UK:

Increase the hiring, training, and retention of more midwives, obstetricians, and anesthesiologists, while ensuring compulsory training in trauma-informed care is provided.

2. Ensure that specialized maternal mental health services are accessible to everyone throughout the UK, eliminating geographical disparities in service availability.

3. Provide all mothers with a distinct six-week postpartum appointment with a general practitioner, focusing on evaluations of both their physical and mental well-being.

4. Deploy and establish the OASI care bundle across all hospital trusts to minimize the incidence of injuries during childbirth.

5. Manage the nationwide implementation of uniform postnatal services to ensure every mother has a secure environment to discuss her childbirth experiences.

6. Improve educational opportunities for women regarding childbirth options. Every NHS trust should provide prenatal courses.

7. Uphold the decisions of mothers regarding childbirth and their options for pain management, and ensure that mothers and their newborns remain together whenever feasible.

8. Offer assistance to fathers and guarantee that the chosen birth partner receives ongoing updates and information throughout labor and after childbirth.

9. Enhance the consistency of medical attention and implement digital systems for maternal health records to bolster coordination between primary and secondary medical services.

10. Increase the duration within which legal action for medical malpractice regarding childbirth can be initiated from three years to five years.

11. Pledge to address disparities in maternity services for ethnic minority groups, especially among Black and Asian women.

12. Studies will be initiated to analyze the economic effects of birth trauma and injuries, focusing on aspects like delayed workforce re-entry by women.

Learn more: Women consistently let down during maternity care. Mother suffers injuries post-childbirth, speaks out. Bereaved parents call for national guidelines following system shortcomings.

Health Minister Victoria Atkins expressed her firm commitment to enhancing the standard and reliability of care for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the crucial subsequent months.

Wes Streeting, the opposition health spokesperson, described the report as "revolutionary" and stated that the Labour Party is committed to collaborating across party lines to achieve outcomes.

Stay informed on the newest updates from the UK and globally by tuning into Sky News.

"Much more effort is needed"

Following a distressing childbirth encounter, Sandra Igwe founded The Motherhood Group and has dedicated the last eight years to advocacy. When she delivered her third child earlier this year, she anticipated a different experience.

"Unfortunately, once more, my worries were ignored and I had to endure several days of waiting to deliver after induction, which increased my stress," she shared with Sky News correspondent Shamaan Freeman-Powell.

"This has demonstrated that much more effort is needed."

She is collaborating with Councillor Evelyn Akoto, who oversees health and wellbeing for Southwark Council, to include the perspectives of women from various ethnic backgrounds in a maternity commission.

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Councilor Akoto, who herself was overlooked and dismissed while in labor, described the statistics facing black and ethnic minority women as "horrifying."

She expressed, "I view myself and other black women as living embodiments of statistics. I perceive our lives as constantly at risk."

According to the councillor, enhancing the quality of maternity services requires tackling existing inequalities.

"She emphasized that solving the issues for those adversely affected benefits everyone. 'Therefore, it's crucial that we unite and address this matter,' she added."

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