Lawyers call for urgent birth injuries public inquiry

Mother and her baby in a hospital bed

An ongoing parliamentary inquiry on birth trauma has heard from lawyers arguing that a statutory Public Inquiry is needed to bring about 'much-needed' change.

Solicitors acting on behalf of injured children and mothers told MPs that the Westminster inquiry was insufficient to address the NHS's 'failure to improve maternity safety'. The lawyers said only a larger Public Injury would be sufficient to force meaningful change.

The current All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) inquiry was set up to look into the causes of birth injuries and to recommend policy changes to improve standards.

The rate of birth injuries is rising

According to research reported by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), 4-6% of mother develop PTSD after giving birth. Mothers with a history of trauma are at even greater risk. An estimated 5% of partners also develop trauma after witnessing a birth.

Research presented to the Westminster inquiry also found that as many as one in three mothers are affected by a traumatic birth, and as many as 30,000 mothers are affected every year. NHS data saw a 3% year-on-year increase of the percentage of birth injury claims handled by NHS Resolution.

The parliamentary inquiry was launched in aftermath of several high profile scandals, including at Shrewsbury and Telford Trust and the Lucy Letby trial. The inquiry is being led by Theo Clarke MP and Rosie Duffield MP and is gathering written and oral evidence from mothers, medical and legal professionals, and other parties.

'Significant improvements and positive change' needed

The inquiry is due to publish its findings in Spring 2024, but lawyers invited to present to the inquiry have argued that much more must be done.

Birth and maternity negligence claims represent the highest cost category of compensation paid out by NHS England, and the Care Quality Commission rates one in four maternity services as 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement'.

Lawyers argued that the parliamentary inquiry could not address 'systemic' issues with maternity care and services in the UK. The need for such change has been highlighted by mothers' submissions to the inquiry, describing rushed and traumatic surgery, unplanned hysterectomies, miscarriages and serious injuries to mothers and children. The submissions also described the lack of mental health support following these incidents.

Help and support after a birth injury

If you need to speak to someone urgently, the NCT recommends calling Samaritans on 08457 909090 or SANEline on 0845 767 8000.

The NHS 111 helpline is also available 24 hours a day.

Birth charities like NCT and Birthrights offer many resources to support mother and birth partners in the aftermath of a traumatic birth, as do support groups like the Birth Trauma Association. The NCT’s research found that PTSD can materialise months and even years after a difficult birth, and it is never too late to seek support.

Not all birth injuries arise from negligence, but if you believe you were the victim of negligent treatment before, during or after a birth, you can discuss your options for compensation with a specialist solicitor.

If you have questions or concerns about your treatment, a compensation claim will also give you the opportunity to uncover the details of what actually happened, and receive an apology and explanation from the party responsible.

Chris Salmon, Director

Chris Salmon, Director