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Major changes in maternity investigations

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A major development to the process of maternity investigations has been announced by the government this week in a move that promises ‘more independent, standardised, family-centred investigations’.

Our specialist Clinical Negligence Solicitors act for a number of families whose babies have either been severely brain damaged at birth, or very tragically died as a result of the delivery process. The pain of what they have gone through is often exacerbated by what can sometimes be a very closed and clinician centred investigation, so this development is very much welcomed.

A newly created Special Health Authority will take over the Maternity Investigation Programme, currently operated by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB).

Meanwhile, the National Investigations Programme will be carried out by the soon to be established Health Services Safety Investigations Body.

In a statement to Parliament, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care declared that the Special Health Authority will be established for up to five years from 2022/2023to ‘enable maximum learning to be achieved’ and to ‘equip NHS trusts with the expertise, resources, and capacity to take on maternity safety incident investigations in the full’.

Mr Javid advised that the Health Services Safety Investigations Body, which has been launched as a non-departmental public body as part of the Health and Care Social Bill 2021, should be fully up and running by April 2023.

Mr Javid said: “The Government considers that independent, standardised, family-centred investigations should continue beyond April 2023 once the new Health Services Safety Investigations Body is established.”

The new Special Health Authority’s priorities were outlined as below:

  • To provide independent, standardised, and family-focussed investigations of maternity cases that provide families with answers to their questions about why their loved ones died or were seriously injured.
  • To provide learning to the health system at local, regional, and national level via reports for the purpose of improving clinical and safety practices in Trusts to prevent similar incidents and deaths occurring.
  • To analyse the incoming data from investigations to identify key trends and provide system-wide learning in these areas including identifying where improvements are being made or there is lack of improvement.
  • To be a system expert in standards for maternity investigations and support Trusts to improve local investigations.
  • To collaborate with system partners to escalate safety concerns and share intelligence.

Mr Javid continued in his statement saying: “Learning from these investigations is key for meeting the Government’s commitment to ‘make the NHS the best place in the world to give birth through personalised, high-quality support’; and our National Maternity Safety Ambition to halve the 2010 rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries in babies occurring during or soon after birth by 2025.”

Commenting on the news, Sharon Banga, specialist clinical negligence Solicitor in the Birmingham medical negligence team at Shoosmiths said:

This is an interesting development and hopefully it will be a positive change to the crucial investigations that are often required into maternity services. My experiences of when care is substandard is such that families require an explanation of the treatment provided in a clear and transparent manner and need to see evidence that the NHS is willing to learn from its mistakes. It is hoped that the new authority will be able to meet the needs of the families involved in maternity errors, and achieve its ambition to reduce serious injuries to babies by 2025.

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Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022

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