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The Ockenden Report - looking to the future.

View profile for Kim Daniells
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In the week that the Ockenden report was published,  another article appeared – on Tuesday, 29th March – in The Guardian.

The article suggested that a shortage of more than 2,000 midwives meant that women and babies would remain at risk of unsafe care in the NHS.

According to the article, the number of midwives has fallen to 26,901 from 27,272 a year ago (figures from NHS England).   The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) suggested that this fall added to an existing shortage of more than 2,000 staff

Our experience as clinical negligence lawyers suggests that failings in care are most likely to happen when maternity units are short staffed, when staff are overworked and tired, and when there is inconsistent care because staff are having to rush from one patient to another without perhaps having time to listen or appreciate any concerns that are being raised.

One of the key findings of the Ockenden report was that patients who raised concerns or complaints about the care they received were not listened to.   That key requirement, to listen to patients, must become embedded in NHS maternity care, not just when things have gone wrong or when a complaint is made, but while the patient is being treated or seen.

So many of the heart breaking incidents that we have heard in the last week could have been avoided if expectant mums’ fears had been addressed at the time.  Others could have been avoided if the lessons to be learned from previous problems had really been taken on board.

The reality, of course, is that listening to patients takes time and it takes people.  Without adequate qualified, knowledgeable staff, it will always be difficult for Trusts to provide the excellent care we all want to see in maternity units.

We hope that the Ockenden report will serve as a wakeup call for NHS maternity services.  We hope that the passionate, dedicated and professional staff within NHS maternity care see many new enthusiastic recruits join their ranks. We hope too that the terrible losses we have seen and read about this week are never repeated elsewhere.