The NHS is in need of more qualified nurses and midwives to help lower the number of mistakes made in maternity care in the UK each year, a new report highlights.
Figures obtained by BBC News from NHS Improvement show that more than 276,000 incidents affecting expectant or new mothers and their babies were logged by NHS staff across Britain between April 2015 and March 2017, with 288 of these cases relating to the death of either a mother or a baby.
Overall, this is equivalent to one mistake being made in every five births taking place in the UK. While the majority of incidents were minor or near misses, 63,380 resulted in harm being caused to patients.
Examples of harm included babies being left with brain damage after being deprived of oxygen, Caesarean sections being delayed, causing distress to the baby, and women being sent away from maternity units as a result of over capacity, despite reporting medical concerns.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC he wants hospitals to keep reporting on incidents and to make safety a key priority, stating: "Mistakes in maternity care can lead to heartbreaking tragedies for mothers and babies."
However, charities and trade unions have hit back, saying that more support from the government is needed to fund training places and staffing opportunities for nurses and midwives to prevent these errors from occurring.
Speaking to BBC News, head of campaigns at the National Childbirth Trust Abigail Wood warned: "Maternity care is in crisis, staffing levels are dangerously low and midwives are being stretched to the limit."
In the wake of the publication of this new information, nurses and midwives who are willing to take on locum roles may find themselves in higher demand as hospitals strive to ensure the utmost standards of safety on their maternity care wards. But long term, it is more government funding and more permanent staff that will provide the key to improving maternity care for new mothers and their babies.
Written by James Puckle
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