Shropshire Star

Traumatic birth experiences faced by women are a 'national tragedy' says MP

The traumatic experiences faced by women giving birth across the country are a "national tragedy," according to an MP.

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North Shropshire MP, Helen Morgan.

North Shropshire's Liberal Democrat MP, Helen Morgan, was speaking after the shocking findings of the birth trauma inquiry were revealed.

Mrs Morgan was part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Birth Trauma which carried out the inquiry, and she praised the bravery of more than 1,300 women who had taken part.

The inquiry has called for a national plan to improve maternity care, and claimed women are often "treated as an inconvenience".

Mrs Morgan described the traumatic experiences being faced by women as a "national tragedy" and said there is a postcode lottery in maternity services across the country.

She has urged the government to accept the findings in full.

Following evidence from more than 1,300 women the group has called on the Government to publish a National Maternity Improvement Strategy, led by a new Maternity Commissioner who will report to the Prime Minister.

The inquiry was led by Conservative MP Theo Clarke and Labour MP Rosie Duffield.

Ms Clarke, who pushed for the investigation after saying in Parliament that she felt she was going to die after giving birth in 2022, said the stories heard by the inquiry were "harrowing".

"In many of these cases, the trauma was caused by mistakes and failures made before and during labour. Frequently, these errors were covered up by hospitals who frustrated parents' efforts to find answers," the authors wrote.

"There were also many stories of care that lacked compassion, including women not being listened to when they felt something was wrong, being mocked or shouted at and being denied basic needs such as pain relief.

"Women shared stories of being left in blood-stained sheets, or of ringing the bell for help but no-one coming.

"We also heard from maternity professionals who reported a maternity system in which overwork and understaffing was endemic. Some referred to a culture of bullying.

"The picture to emerge was of a maternity system where poor care is all too frequently tolerated as normal, and women are treated as an inconvenience."

The report comes two years after the Ockenden Review into maternity services at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) confirmed years of shocking failings that contributed to the deaths of 201 babies and nine mothers.

Mrs Morgan said: "This inquiry has exposed what many of us have long feared about the state of the country’s maternity services. Theo Clarke deserves a lot of praise for her excellent work leading the inquiry.

"It was extremely moving to hear first-hand from injured mothers during the evidence sessions and I want to thank the many brave women who contributed to the report.

"For so many women to have such traumatic experiences of birth is nothing short of a national tragedy. Too many are being failed in pregnancy, birth and aftercare as this report shows.

"It’s time the Government took action to end the postcode lottery in maternity services. I urge them to accept the report in full.”

Rhiannon Davies, who led the campaign for an investigation into SaTH after the avoidable death of her daughter Kate, said the findings from the latest report were further evidence of the shocking state of maternity services across the country.

Ms Davies, along with her husband Richard Stanton, and fellow parents Kayleigh and Colin Griffiths, have been campaigning for a national, all encompassing maternity inquiry.

Their petition calling has so far been signed by more than 36,000 people.

Ms Davies said the details revealed by the report showed the need for an overall inquiry – across the four nations of the United Kingdom.

She said: "What is happening is a silo approach – whether that's a silo of a single country or a single theme like birth trauma like this, or a single entity like the CQC."

She added that repeated inquiries were unearthing similar issues – be it the Ockenden report into SaTH, the upcoming Nottingham inquiry, or the birth trauma findings.

Ms Davies said she also wanted to see stronger recommendations to ensure "meaningful change", adding: "Without them we won't create change."

She said: "What is happening is there is a deterioration in safety and that is underpinned by every report that comes out."

Responding to the report Health Minister Maria Caulfield said that maternity services "have not been where we want them to be".

But she said the Government is already doing much of the work recommended in the report.

She said: "We are doing much of the work in the recommendations already. It isn't just about the birth and afterwards, that's probably where we've been going wrong for such a long time, this has been happening to women for decades.

"This is about looking after women before they go into birth."

She added: "We absolutely recognise what's in the report. We are on track with rolling out some of these services to prevent this from happening in the first place, but when it does, better look after women."

The report authors also called for more midwives and maternity staff, for new mothers and babies to have separate health checks at six weeks so the doctor can fully assess the mother's mental and physical health and additional efforts to reduce the risk of birth injuries.

They made recommendations about providing more information on birth choices for women and informing them about the risk of injuries in childbirth.

The authors also called for women's choices about giving birth and access to pain relief to be "respected".

Meanwhile they said that the time limit for medical negligence litigation relating to childbirth should be extended from three years to five years.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: "The experiences outlined by women in this report are simply not good enough and not what the NHS wants or expects for patients."

She said that NHS England was working with local health bodies so "their teams can create and nurture a culture where women are listened to, their choices respected and care is personalised, equitable and safe".