JMW backs calls for reinstatement of maternity safety training fund

30th January 2020 Clinical Negligence

The maternity safety training fund, which aimed to bring about improvement in maternity care and safety, was axed despite helping to train thousands of maternity staff. At a time when we are faced with scandal after scandal in maternity services there are now calls to bring it back.

The purpose of the fund, which was introduced by Health Education England following the publication of “Better Births” in 2016, was to fund multi-disciplinary training to improve maternity safety and care for mothers and babies. 

In 2018, Health & Social Care Evaluation was commissioned to conduct an assessment of the effects of the fund.  Their report concluded that the fund has enabled access to maternity safety training which has led to “increasing confidence and empowering the maternity staff; enhancing skills, knowledge and awareness; improving multi-professional working and communications; improving patient safety; and encouraging cultural change”. The authors of the report concluded that ongoing financial support was required in order to ensure that the benefits of the initiative were sustained in the future. 

The effect of sub-optimal funding on training for maternity care was highlighted in the Mind the Gap” report by the national charity Baby Lifeline which was published in 2018.  Amongst its findings, the report noted that “fewer than 8% of Trusts provided all training elements of this savings babies lives care bundle” and that “staffing and funding are key barriers to the provision of and attendance at maternity training. This is deeply concerning and I was glad to see Jeremy Hunt in the House of Commons yesterday commenting on the continuing need for access to funds to help train those involved in maternity care.

As a partner in JMW’s clinical negligence team, I see a significant number of cases where a mother and her baby have suffered instances of negligent care, and in a number of those cases a lack of training is identified as a contributing factor to the negligent care. In many of these cases, the child has been left significantly and permanently disabled as a result of the negligent care, which enables us to see at first-hand the devastating consequences of failures to ensure that training is adequate and up-to-date.

When it existed, the maternity safety training fund brought about a number of improvements in training for those involved in the care of mothers and babies. The report by Baby Lifeline suggests that it could be a vital tool in the fight to raise standards of care that are so lacking in some trusts and reduce the number of babies who are avoidably harmed on a daily basis. 

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Steven Brown is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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