A major new review into maternal processes suggests that the quality of investigations into babies born in problematic circumstances is inadequate.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists believes that the quality of investigation into babies who either die or suffer severe brain damage during labour is extremely uneven.
This opinion is contained in the preliminary report of the organisation into the way that problems during labour are presently investigated in the NHS.
Experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists examined over 900 cases in compiling the report, and found that 27% of 204 investigations were of poor quality
Although the early indications are not encouraging for the NHS, the final report is not due until 2017.
The intention is to examine the existing processes, procedures and practical cases that exist in the NHS, and to learn the lessons from problems and mistakes in the health service.
Health bosses wish to halve the number of babies who either die or are left severely disabled following the process of labour by the end of the decade.
The report says all investigations should be robust, comprehensive and led by multi-disciplinary teams, including external experts and parents, and that too often this is not the case at present.
Prof Alan Cameron, vice-president of the RCOG and a consultant obstetrician in Glasgow, commented that the existing situation is unacceptable, and called on the NHS to tighten up procedures in this area.
“When the outcome for parents is the devastating loss of a baby or a baby born with a severe brain injury, there can be little justification for the poor quality of reviews found. The emotional cost of these events is immeasurable, and each case of disability costs the NHS around £7m in compensation to pay for the complex, lifelong support these children need.”
Meanwhile, Judith Abela, acting chief executive at Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, was very much in agreement with Cameron, with the charity pushing for a more effective review process which directly involves the parents of such children.
“Parents’ perspective of what happened is critical to understanding how care can be improved, and they must be given the opportunity to be involved, with open, respectful and sensitive support provided throughout.”
Even Health Minister Ben Gummer has conceded that findings from the reports are “unacceptable”, while indicating that the government has instigated a new system in order to improve the situation.
“We expect the NHS to review and learn from every tragic case, which is why we are investing in a new system to support staff to do this and help ensure far fewer families have to go through this heartache.”
There are more than 3,600 stillbirths every year in the UK, and one in every 200 births ends in a stillbirth.