Commonplace red flag events on labour wards no surprise, says Negligence Claimline

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A report from the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) and NCT, which has shown that half of women experience at least one red flag event during childbirth, has come as no surprise to the clinical negligence sector, according to Negligence Claimline.

The claims management company has revealed that around 25% of all medical negligence claims that it receives are related to birth and maternity negligence.

The report, called Support Overdue: Women’s experiences of maternity services 2017, is the second that the NFWI and NCT have produced and the latest findings suggest that little progress has been made in the four years since the publication of the first report.

It has also discovered that 18% of women did not see a midwife as often as they needed postnatally, resulting in delayed diagnoses of health problems at a critical time for mothers and babies. Of these, 29% of women were forced to visit their GP, walk-in centre, or even an A&E department instead. In addition, 88% of women did not know their midwife before they went into labour or gave birth.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that red flag events are signs that there may not be enough midwives available to give women and babies the care they need, for example having to wait more than 30 minutes to get pain relief or over an hour to be given stitches.

Marylyn Haines Evans, the NFWI’s public affairs chair, said that the findings from the report showed that chronic midwife shortages continued to undermine the delivery of high quality care for women and their families.

“Half of the women we spoke to reported red-flag events during their care, suggesting that staffing levels are at crisis point,” she said.

Negligence Claimline said that the figures in the report were shocking but not uncommon.

“In 2016 the Cochrane Review found that women who received midwife-led care were less likely to lose their baby before 24 weeks, have regional analgesia, have experience of a pre-term birth or experience an episiotomy,” said that claims management company on its website.

“It has been proved time and time again that the continuity of care was a key indicator of positive maternity experiences in both postnatal and antenatal care.”

The NCT’s senior policy adviser, Elizabeth Duff, said that no women should have to suffer a red flag event when bringing a baby into the world.

“Severe staffing shortages must be acted on so that every family receives an acceptable level of care. If a woman wants pain relief she shouldn’t have to wait 30 minutes to get it and no new mother should have to wait over an hour to be given stitches.

“It’s shocking that so few women are able to see a midwife often enough postnatally and more support is needed at this stage too. Most maternal deaths occur postnatally, with suicide a leading cause of fatality.”

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Marek Handzel

Marek Handzel is the editor of Claims Magazine. Marek welcomes articles, letters, or feedback from readers and can be reached by emailing marek.handzel@barkerbrooks.co.uk