- Midwives and nurses have recorded 305,019 errors in the last three years
- They range from records being lost to needless deaths of mothers and babies
- 259 deaths between 2013-16 due to avoidable or unexpected circumstances
Sophie Borland Health Editor For The Daily Mail
Maternity staff are making more than 1,400 mistakes in NHS wards every week, figures reveal.
Midwives and nurses have recorded 305,019 errors in the last three years although the actual number is likely to be far higher.
They range from records being lost and low-level injury in birth to the needless deaths of mothers and babies.
Midwives and nurses have recorded 305,019 errors in the last three years
Figures show that at least 259 women or babies died between 2013 and 2016 due to avoidable or unexpected circumstances. A third of hospitals failed to provide data, meaning the full picture is likely to be far worse.
Midwives say the mistakes are happening because safety is being compromised in understaffed units. The figures do not give a breakdown of the number of errors by year so it is not possible to determine whether they are on the rise.
But maternity units are coming under increasing strain due to the rising birth rate and the higher number of older and obese women having complex labours. The data was obtained by the BBC from 81 out of 132 hospital trusts with maternity units under the Freedom of Information Act.
The mistakes weren’t detailed but may have included staff failing to monitor the foetus’s heartbeat or carrying out C-sections too late. Other more common errors include epidural painkillers being administered incorrectly or patients’ notes mixed up. Only 39 trusts provided figures for avoidable or unexpected deaths of mothers or babies.
There were 259 deaths recorded over the three-year period although the actual number may be four times as high.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘The simple truth is we do not have enough midwives right now, we are also seeing more leaving the profession because of stress and a slight reduction in the number of student midwives training. We can’t deliver the safest possible care if we don’t have enough midwives and doctors working here.’
A spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: ‘We must make maternity services safe for women and their newborns.
‘This requires maternity units to be adequately resourced, and should be an urgent priority for the NHS.’
Maternity staff are making more than 1,400 mistakes in NHS wards every week
Last week a survey of 1,224 new mothers by parenting website Mumsnet found that a fifth had been frightened when they gave birth. Many were left so traumatised they suffered mental health problems. One woman called her maternity unit a ‘disaster zone’.
The Department of Health said it could not respond to the figures due to the pre-election purdah period. But it said plans were in place to halve rates of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries in babies by 2030.
A spokesman for NHS Improvement, the body that regulates hospitals, said: ‘We are supporting trusts to improve safety within maternity units.
‘This includes launching the maternal and neonatal health and safety collaborative, a three-year programme which aims to reduce the rates of maternal deaths, stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 20 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2030.’
A Conservative Party spokesman said: ‘We’re putting more resources into the NHS, employing more midwives and training record numbers.’
Last week an NHS trust admitted it had paid out millions in compensation over a cluster of babies born with brain damage.
There were at least seven avoidable deaths at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust in Shropshire between 2014 and 2016.
But many others are thought to have suffered permanent injuries and lawyers claim they have 27 open cases.
The trust is being investigated.
I tried to warn medics but they failed to save my son
Devastating: Sarah Ellis with Gino before deciding to turn his life support off
Gino Asquith was born in a serious condition in 2014 after his mother Sarah Ellis was left alone on a maternity ward.
Despite repeatedly telling staff she couldn’t feel the baby moving, she was made to wait for six hours.
Gino was eventually delivered by C-section and placed on life support.
Shortly afterwards his parents decided to turn the machine off after being told his condition was ‘unrecoverable’.
They have since taken legal action against Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, West Yorkshire, and were paid an undisclosed sum of compensation.
Gino’s father Adam said: ‘Every single day we have to live with the fact that we’re a victim of the NHS.’
Miss Ellis, his fiancee, said: ‘We were left for six hours, we didn’t really know anything, they just told us and reassured us that everything was OK. Everyone makes mistakes – I do, we all do – but to see so many people make so many mistakes within six hours is just shocking.’
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust has admitted liability for Gino’s death in November 2014.
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