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3 May 2024 | Comment | Article by Ruth Powell

Birth Trauma Inquiry unveils alarming maternity care crisis in the UK

Written by Holly Hammond, Solicitor in our Clinical Negligence department.

The recent Birth Trauma Inquiry led by Theo Clarke (MP) has revealed that between 4-5% of women will experience a form of Post Traumatic Stress following the delivery of their child. This translates to 30,000 women in the United Kingdom.

Of all operating NHS services, Maternity units are rated to have the lowest levels of safety according to England’s health care regulators despite their widespread use; the deterioration follows efforts to improve outcomes of maternity care beginning in 2016.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated 65% of maternity units in England to be ‘inadequate’ or ‘require improvement’ for the safety of care in 2023. A shocking increase from 54% in 2022 and from 38% in 2021.

The Birth Trauma Inquiry, which opened in February, is the first parliamentary inquiry of its kind to investigate experiences women and mothers are currently facing in the UK during childbirth. It follows the first parliamentary debate in British history on birth trauma in October 2023.

The Inquiry aims to highlight common features in maternity care that contribute to poor experiences and outcomes during delivery, and subsequently develop policy recommendations to reduce the rate of birth trauma.

The recommendations of this inquiry are due to be announced in May and it is expected to continue to highlight the urgent need for safer maternity units for both mothers and babies.

The Times reported,

“The total cost of harm from clinical negligence was £13.6 billion in the 2021-2022 reporting year, according to NHS resolution. Sixty per cent of the cost of harm was for maternity claims, amounting to £8.2 billion for the year… NHS England spends £3 billion annually on maternity and neonatal services, a board paper published in March confirmed.”

The above statistic from NHS resolution is indicative that more money is recovered from the NHS in maternity claims through compensation, than the volume of money used to fund maternity units in the first instance.

Our Clinical Negligence department has seen first-hand the devastating impact inadequate NHS services can have on individuals and families at a time when their lives should be joyful and untroubled. In England, one newborn is welcomed every 54 seconds and therefore the implications of these service failures are exponential.

If you, or a loved one has been subject to a difficult childbirth or delivery, please get in touch with our Medical Negligence department to discuss your options.

Key contact

Ruth Powell


Ruth is a Partner and Head of our Clinical Negligence Department. She has exclusively practised in clinical negligence since qualifying in 1995 and has a wealth of experience in complex and high value clinical negligence claims.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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