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Health Secretary unveils landmark plans to make giving birth safer in the NHS

17th October 2016

New measures to make giving birth safer, including maternity safety funding and publishing maternity ratings, have been announced.

In a major speech today, Jeremy Hunt unveiled a comprehensive package of measures designed to further improve the safety of maternity care in the NHS.

This will provide resources to Trusts to improve their approach to maternity safety; make sure lessons are learned from mistakes and shared openly and transparently across the NHS; and take the first steps to dismantling the litigation culture that acts as a barrier to this by consulting on a new voluntary compensation scheme as an alternative to costly legal processes for families with brain-injured children.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, commented:

“The steps announced today to improve maternity safety are significant and to be applauded.  Health visitors must be aware of them too and consider the part they can play supporting mothers during their antenatal visit.”

The safer maternity care action plan also includes:

  • a £250,000 maternity safety innovation fund to help create and pilot new ideas for improving maternity care, like the successful PROMPT scheme pioneered by Professor Tim Draycott in Southmead, which has some of the lowest child mortality rates in Europe
  • publishing new maternity ratings for every clinical commissioning group (CCG) across the NHS to improve transparency, raise standards and give families better information about the quality of local maternity services
  • a new national Maternal and Neonatal Health Quality Improvement Programme for all trusts to exchange ideas and best practice – a similar scheme in Scotland was linked to a 19% decrease in stillbirths over a 3 year period
  • a consultation to develop a ‘safe space’ to allow clinicians to speak openly about things that go wrong without fear that information they disclose may be used against them in court or professional misconduct hearings
  • the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, modelled on the highly successful Air Accident Investigation Branch, which will be up and running from April 2017

Also, announced today is a consultation on a new rapid resolution and redress (RRR) scheme. The RRR scheme could investigate and learn lessons from more than 500 incidents a year. In cases where harm was avoidable this would offer timely access to financial support without the current obligation on families to launch a formal legal process. At present, the average time families have to wait for resolution of a case is 11.5 years.

As part of the ambition to halve neonatal death, stillbirth, maternal death and brain injuries caused during or shortly after labour by 2030, the Department of Health has launched “Our Chance”, a new public health campaign in partnership with Sands and Best Beginnings.