Figures from NHS England show that 124,143 incidents were reported by maternity units last year. Mothers are dying as a result of some of these mistakes.
These included midwives not monitoring the foetus’s heartbeat correctly, doctors giving epidurals incorrectly, or emergency caesareans being carried out too late.
The figures reveal that there are at least 340 mistakes happening on NHS maternity wards every day, and although most errors are ‘near misses’ or cause minimal injury, there are some with tragic consequences.
Last year 151 women and new born babies died on maternity wards, and another 351 suffered serious harm.
The recently published NHS England report, urges staff to learn from their mistakes to ensure they don’t happen again, and to improve overall care.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘We’re still short of midwives and junior doctors in maternity services and there’s no doubt that when there’s not enough staff, things are more likely to go wrong.’
The report follows the scandal at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust where up to 30 mothers and babies died unnecessarily over a decade.
Maureen Treadwell, of the Birth Trauma Association charity, said: ‘Far too many women are being injured and too many babies are dying because necessary and wanted interventions are being delayed.’
The figures are based on incidents that were reported by NHS staff. The numbers may be higher as some incidents may never have been logged.
Separate data from last year shows that half of NHS maternity units had been forced to closed their doors on expectant mothers in labour as they were already too busy.
An NHS England spokesman said: ‘The chances of a baby dying – the stillbirth or neonatal death rate – has fallen by a fifth over the past decade, and maternal mortality has fallen by 50 per cent, but it is vital we take every step to make further gains.’
The Case of Sareena Ali
In 2011, Sareena Ali and her unborn baby died after midwives ignored her husband’s pleas for help, and failed to perform the proper observations.
Mrs Ali was admitted to Queen’s Hospital maternity unit in Romford and was classed as being ‘low risk’.
When she complained to her husband, Usman Javed, of being in pain and feeling hot he became concerned.
He said at the time: ‘I went to the nursing station several times asking, ‘‘Can you please help us?’’. They kept saying, ‘‘Go back to her, she is fine. That is what labour is’’’.
It’s reported that one midwife told him: “Have you not been reading books, what have you been doing for the last nine months?”
An inquest found Mrs Ali was suffering from a ruptured womb, which resulted in multiple organ failure and the death of both Mrs Ali and her baby. Both deaths could have been avoided and midwife Ilene Machakata was struck off last year.
Pryers are a firm of specialist medical negligence solicitors. We have helped many mothers and children claim compensation for birth injuries. Contact us by email or call us on 1904556600. We will advise for free if we can help you on a no win no fee basis or whether you are a candidate for Legal Aid.