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Health Secretary Admits Uncertainty in Preventing Future Maternity Scandals Amid Calls for Overhaul



Health Minister Uncertain About Preventing Future Maternity Care Issues After Damning Birth Report

Following the release of a parliamentary report criticizing the substandard maternity services in England, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins asserts that these services are beginning to improve, despite the troubling findings.

Political journalist @Journoamrogers

Monday, May 13, 2024, 6:

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The health secretary could not assure that there will be no more controversies in maternity services, acknowledging that the NHS is currently undergoing a transformative phase.

Victoria Atkins commented after a report by Members of Parliament was released, highlighting the "shockingly poor quality" of maternity services. The report criticized the lack of compassion in care and a culture where substandard care is often accepted as normal.

In a conversation with Sky News after the release of the report, Ms. Atkins expressed her gratitude to the women who participated in the investigation, emphasizing the significance of their accounts.

"I make this statement not only in my capacity as the health secretary but also as a mother."

The health secretary, who assumed her position last November, shared that while giving birth under NHS care brought "moments of joy," it also involved "some very dark and frightening times."

She expressed her full comprehension of why women and their families felt concerned about the report and its contents.

When questioned about her ability to ensure there would be no more issues in maternity care, Ms. Atkins stated, "I'm being utterly transparent, we are in a phase of change… we are starting to witness improvements, but I acknowledge that there's still a significant amount of work ahead."

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Theo Clark MP had already shared her experience of birth trauma in the parliament by the time Victoria Atkins served as health secretary.

She emphasizes her attentiveness to the experiences of women who have testified before the national commission.

"I express this not only in my capacity as the Secretary of State for Health but also as a mother."

She described her childbirth experience as having "periods that were quite terrifying and bleak."

She has reviewed the comprehensive multi-party parliamentary investigation into birth trauma and asserts that improvements are being made.

"We haven't fully arrived, but we are truly">king progress," she explained to me.

Annually, staggering amounts are disbursed on maternity-related clinical negligence claims, reaching £1.1 billion in the previous year.

Why didn't anyone raise the alarm? Victoria Atkins asserts that they did, and she references recent investigations into maternity controversies that resulted in a three-year strategy for maternity improvement.

In response to my inquiry about the possibility of future maternity scandals, the Health Secretary acknowledged the challenges ahead, stating, "I'm being entirely honest, we are in a phase of transition… we are starting to witness improvements, however, I recognize that there is still a significant amount of work to be completed."

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This morning, Health Minister Maria Caulfield expressed her apologies to affected mothers, stating: "I acknowledge that our maternity services have not met our desired standards, yet significant efforts are underway to improve this area."

"Maternity issues have persisted for a significant period, making it a focal point within the broader strategy for women's health."

When questioned about whether she would issue an apology to the affected women, Ms. Atkins acknowledged that the issues identified in the report have been persistent.

She emphasized her current priority, stating, "My goal is to concentrate not only on the distant future but also on the present. It's important to me that mothers feel reassured by the advancements we are making in our services."

"I'm not saying we've fully arrived, but we are truly making progress."

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

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

The report detailed accounts of women left in blood-soaked bedding or pressing the call button for assistance without receiving any response.

The investigation resulted in 12 suggestions, one of which was the establishment of a maternity commissioner position, reporting directly to the prime minister.

According to a report from the Department of Health and Social Care, over a third of the NHS' maternity and neonatal services budget, amounting to £1.1 billion, was allocated to cover clinical negligence payouts in the fiscal year 2022/23.

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In a conversation with Sky News, Ms. Duffield, who serves as the co-chair for the all-party parliamentary group on birth trauma, emphasized that the UK must definitively reform its maternity care system in light of the recent inquiry.

"She emphasized the necessity of having someone in charge because currently, it's all dependent on where you live," she stated.

"We require an individual who can oversee our efforts, similar to an Ofsted inspector but potentially less intimidating, to ensure that our maternity services and care are coordinated effectively."

"We must also urgently address the issue of maternal health for Black and South Asian women, who face a fivefold higher risk of dying in childbirth."

Ms. Atkins expressed her firm commitment to enhancing women's healthcare throughout England. She noted that since assuming her Cabinet role, she has made women's health, maternity services, and addressing birth trauma her top priorities.

Read further: Women consistently let down throughout maternity services. Senior Labour MP discloses lung cancer diagnosis originating from skin cancer.

When questioned about the lack of "alarm bells" throughout the Conservatives' 14-year tenure, Ms. Atkins acknowledged that there were known issues, referencing investigations into maternity services at both Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Morecambe Bay NHS Trust.

She highlighted a unique situation, stating, "For the first time ever in the history of the NHS, both the Secretary of State for Health and the Chief Executive of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, are mothers."

"We are collaborating to tackle various challenges that have emerged recently."

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