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£3m for Phase 2 of Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth programme

Very welcome news that the Government's Patient Safety Minister recently pledged a further £3m to improve maternity care and explicitly to reduce the number of brain injuries at birth. The ambition is to halve the rate of brain injury during or soon after birth by 2025.

The money will be allocated to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute at Cambridge University in the second phase roll-out of tools and training across the NHS.

The first phase was announced in July 2021 and included nearly £2m to develop tools and training to monitor and respond to a baby’s wellbeing during labour, and manage complications with babies’ positioning during caesarean sections.

This response is a direct result of a consultation with healthcare professionals and parents. Nearly all of the healthcare professionals surveyed agreed there should be a national approach to monitoring babies during labour, adopted by all NHS Trusts. Women and their birth partners called for better information, clear communication and involvement in decision-making.

It will also seek to address workplace culture, such as ensuring midwives and obstetricians work together to deliver safe care. For example:

  • development and testing of national tools to monitor and identify any deterioration in the baby’s health during birth;
  • training for midwives and doctors focusing on teamwork, cooperation and positive working relationships, alongside technical skills, is being developed
  • strategy to improve national databases to help identify what enables excellent care, bringing together CQC reports and published data on national brain injury rates;
  • birth safety culture toolkit to be developed and tested including a new approach to ensure the whole system learns from good practice and mistakes.

The President of RCOG Dr Edward Morris was right to highlight in his response the focus on establishing clear processes for effective fetal monitoring. Likewise, Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives supported the call from maternity practitioners and women for the right support, tools, training and systems to prevent the tragedy of birth injuries that devastate families.

Too many of our maternity negligence cases involve a delayed response during labour to signs that a baby is in distress. CTG monitoring is there specifically to identify when a baby's heart rate decelerates to dangerous levels. There is little point in such monitoring if midwives and doctors fail to respond appropriately to these signs.

In far too many cases, where a serious brain injury is involved, our investigations may sadly conclude that had a baby been delivered earlier, their injuries would have been avoided. Better training to read and react to monitoring is therefore essential to improve maternity care across the UK.

Find out more about birth injury claims.

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