7 in 10 Baby Deaths or Cases of Brain Damage at Birth Caused by Bad NHS Care

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

A government-funded study has found that 71 per cent of baby deaths or neonatal brain injuries could have been avoided if the National Health Service (NHS) had given better care.

The ‘Every Baby Counts’ project, by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), looked at 1,123 babies who were stillborn, died within a week of birth, or were born brain-damaged in 2016 in a report published Tuesday.

Of those 1,123, 124 (11 per cent) were stillborn, 145 newborns died within the first week of birth, and 854 suffered brain damage, often due to deprivation of oxygen during labour.

In 45 per cent of cases, midwives and obstetricians were found to have failed to follow best practice or guidelines, including lack of training or not responding to warning signs sufficiently. Each case had an average of seven failings where actions were inadequate or went wrong.

The report also blamed overwhelmed maternity units and staff shortages.

Co-investigator of Every Baby Counts and vice-president of the RCOG told The Guardian that “Sadly, this latest report from Each Baby Counts shows that different care might have made a difference to the outcome for almost three-quarters of affected babies.”

One woman whose baby son Harry suffered brain damage was told that it was “just one of those things” and she and her husband had to push for an investigation, which found fault with the NHS hospital.

Nicky Lyon told The Times that she had been deemed “low risk” during her pregnancy, but admitted to hospital ten days after her due date where there was “little communication or care” with her midwife.

A doctor was supposed to take a reading of Harry’s heartbeat but had been delayed, and the maternity ward was particularly busy the Friday night she gave birth.

“She then saw how bad Harry’s heart trace was and tried to deliver him immediately but it was too late,” Ms Lyon said. After four weeks on a ventilator, the Lyons were told their son was profoundly brain damaged and would never be able to walk, talk, or feed himself.

Last year, a study by the National Childbirth Trust and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) found that half of all pregnant women experienced a “red flag” event during labour. Women also complained they were treated like “cattle” in maternity wards by callous staff and felt they were on a “conveyor belt” during labour, being seen by several different midwives during the birthing process.

A study published in June found that the NHS has a higher-than-average rate of newborn infant mortality compared to other Western nations, while the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health predicted last month that infant deaths could more than double in England and Wales by 2030.


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