Report prompts review of all maternity care in England

NHS England announces major review of maternity services in the wake of 'shocking' report

A national review of maternity care will be carried out amid concerns there are serious failings within the profession, NHS England has announced.

The review comes following the publication of a highly critical report into the deaths of 11 babies and one mother in the maternity unit of Furness General Hospital, run by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. It will consider how services should be developed to meet the changing needs of women and babies.

The Morecambe Bay investigation report, published yesterday, exposed a ‘lethal mix’ of failings at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria between 2004 and 2013. The investigating panel found 20 instances of ‘significant or major failures of care’ with the maternity services at the hospital. Clinical competence was substandard, working relationships were ‘extremely poor’ and the response to adverse incidents was ‘grossly deficient’, the report said.

But midwives consistently rejected the criticism and ‘colluded in concealing the truth’ about some incidents, according to the investigating panel.

The report revealed there was a strong group mentality among the midwives who dubbed themselves ‘the musketeers’. It said midwifery supervision investigations were ‘flawed’ and inappropriate reliance was placed on poor quality internal investigations.

Dr Bill Kirkup, who led the investigation, described the findings as ‘serious and shocking’.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is currently investigating seven midwives who worked at the trust and confirmed last month that the midwife supervision role will no longer be part of its legal framework.

In a statement, the trust apologised unreservedly and said lessons would be learned.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘Most mums say they get great NHS maternity care, but equally we know we can do better in many places, and the Morecambe Bay report is truly shocking.

‘So the time is right to take stock and consider how we can best deliver maternity care safely in every part of the country, while better meeting the high expectations women and families rightly have.’

The NHS England review will be led by an external chair and is expected to report by the end of the year, added Mr Stevens.

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