The 'gaping hole' of long-term understaffing and insufficient resources had already left many NHS maternity staff fearing for the safety of staff and patients – a situation amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which hospital maternity departments never closed.
The RCM response follows a recent report on NHS staff burnout from the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, which it blames on excessive workload due to understaffing. The RCM says the failure of successive governments over decades to invest long-term in the NHS and its staff is 'pushing many of them out of the door'.
An RCM survey of midwives in November 2020 found that eight out of 10 (83%) do not believe their NHS trust or board has enough staff to operate a safe service. Services were stretched almost to breaking point, with 42% reporting that half of shifts were understaffed and that seven out of 10 (71%) were considering leaving the profession.
Fieldfisher's medical negligence team specialises in cases involving children affected by cerebral palsy and other birth injuries as a result of mistakes during a mother's labour. All too often, these mistakes are caused by insufficient staff on duty so that fetal distress is not recorded or acted upon quickly enough to prevent catastrophic brain injury to the baby.
Cases such as Liam's, and another against Newham General illustrate the severe impact on individuals, their families and on wider society of these injuries. They are profound and long lasting and the avoidable nature of many of the errors is, indeed, demoralising and tragic for all involved.
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