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Learning important lessons from tragedies

15:57 02 May 2014

Rosaline Wong of Ashton KCJ

Rosaline Wong of Ashton KCJ


Legally Speaking with Ashton KCJ


In the period between April 2000 and March 2010, the NHS Litigation Authority received 38 claims for women who have died during or as a result of childbirth.

The estimated total value of the claims was £20million.

Reports show that the majority of these deaths were caused by complications associated with pregnancy, such as raised blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, and maternal infection.

It is important to note that maternity units are facing an increasing number of complex or multiple births and not all maternal deaths can be prevented, but substandard care was found in 70% of deaths associated with complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

Over the years, I have acted for many bereaved husbands or partners and understand the devastation they have been through.

I have also seen some common factors between the deaths. For example: high risk pregnancies being handled by junior staff who do not have the adequate skills and experience in caring for high risk pregnancies and have failed to recognise and respond to the severity of the condition of the women.

In some cases, contributory factors have been a shortage of midwifery staff leading to an over reliance on the use of agency staff who are unfamiliar with unit policies.

Sadly, similar mistakes are still being made in the same hospitals or hospitals elsewhere. This could suggest that lessons have not been learned, or remedial actions not implemented.

One way to counteract this would be the publication of hospital adverse incidents and remedial actions on a designated NHS website to ensure that valuable lessons are shared.

Whilst we are not advocating the naming and shaming of hospitals, it’s difficult to see what can be gained if only a handful of health professionals know how and why the deaths occurred.

Every opportunity to prevent death occurring in pregnancy and childbirth must be taken seriously. It is not acceptable to regard maternal death as an isolated incident and the NHS owes a duty of care to mothers and children under their watch.

For advice on any aspect of medical injury claims, please contact Ashton KCJ’s Medical Injury team.

Rosaline Wong

Medical Injury Solicitor

Ashton KCJ

T: 01473 849950


This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. We would advise you to seek professional advice before acting on this information.


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