Hannah Blackwell comments upon the announcement that the government is to invest over £2 million pounds to improve maternity services and considers the wider implications of this.
I was very pleased to hear Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that 90 hospitals across England and Wales are to receive a share of government funding to invest in new equipment to provide safer maternity care.
As a clinical negligence solicitor specialising in cases involving birth injuries and injuries to mothers during childbirth, it was reassuring to hear the news of the investment of £2 million to enable hospitals within the 90 Trusts named to purchase new equipment, including ultrasound machines and mother and baby monitoring equipment, so any problems can be detected and addressed earlier.
This further funding comes as part of the government’s campaign to halve the number of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries occurring during or soon after birth, by 2030.
In order for a Trust to be awarded some of the £2 million pound investment, they were required to submit an application for funding which was then considered by the Department of Health and representatives from the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Examples of the funds allocated include:
Interestingly a number of the Trusts who have received funding, have suggested that this will be used for additional ‘simulation’ training for staff of particular obstetric emergency situations where there is high risk to mother and/or baby.
A large amount of funds are also being devoted to diagnosis of growth restricted babies, who are recognised to be the single largest group of preventable still-births.
The government is also investing in a new system to be used consistently across the NHS to enable staff to review every stillbirth and neonatal death, with further training programmes being made available.
It was announced that over £1 million has also been invested in training programmes for NHS staff.
Jeremy Hunt said, “This is an important step towards creating a safer NHS 7 days a week. By ensuring midwives and doctors have the right equipment we can further improve the safety and care of thousands of women and their babies during this life-changing moment”.
I would agree that this is an important step towards making our NHS safer but there is a lot to be done. In December of last year, I wrote about the research by Imperial College London which suggested that babies born at weekends have a ‘significantly’ greater change of dying than those born on weekdays. Research by the National Audit Office in 2013 raised similar concerns noting one factor that could be contributing to the poorer outcome was the limited availability of more senior doctors at weekends.
I am pleased to see that in conjunction with the £2 million pound investment, the government is also investing in training for NHS staff. It will however also be important to ensure the right staffing levels are available to offer patients the best possible care.