New birth injuries compensation scheme announced – BBC News

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Parents in England whose children are injured at birth may benefit from a new government compensation scheme.

The voluntary scheme is intended to settle complaints more quickly and allow medical staff to speak openly about maternity care failings.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was “a blame culture” among front-line staff when things go wrong.

Sweden, where such a scheme is in use, has halved serious avoidable birth injuries in seven years, he said.

The new Rapid Resolution and Redress scheme will investigate the 500 cases of avoidable harm to babies, during birth, which happen each year in England.

Currently, families have to wait more than 11 years on average for a resolution of formal legal cases.

The NHS spent more than 500m last year on resolving legal disputes after mistakes by maternity staff.

The Health Secretary has also announced other measures designed to improve the safety of maternity care in the NHS.

These include:

  • 8m for training
  • a 250,000 fund to pilot new ideas for improving maternity care
  • maternity ratings for every clinical commissioning group across the NHS
  • a national quality improvement programme involving all maternity units

The Health Secretary has set a target of halving stillbirths and neonatal deaths by 2030.

At present, for every 1,000 births in England, more than seven babies are either born dead or die soon afterwards, giving it one of the worst records of any developed country.

‘Fear of litigation’

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said NHS maternity staff “did a fantastic job under huge pressure”.

“But even though we have made much progress, our stillbirth rates are still amongst the highest in Western Europe,” he said. “Many on the frontline say there is still too much of a blame culture when things go wrong – often caused by fear of litigation or worry about damage to reputation and careers.”

He said the measures announced would help trusts to improve their approach to safety and create “an open and transparent culture”, and he wants the courts to become a last resort.

“By learning from proven methods in countries like Sweden we hope to achieve a dramatic reduction in the number of tragedies where babies are lost or injured for life,” he concluded.

Clea Harmer, chief executive of Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal charity, said: “We’re delighted that the importance of a clear national strategy for a sustained reduction in deaths has been recognised, and resources have been committed to achieve this.

“We pay tribute to the parents across the country who, by speaking out about their personal experience of bereavement, have helped us raise awareness that much more can and should be done.

“Their voices must continue to be heard as these new measures are rolled out,” she added.

James Taylor, head of policy and public affairs at the disability charity Scope, said finding out that your child has been affected by a birth injury can be very traumatic.

“It is very positive that the government will be listening to disabled people and their parents on how the NHS can better support families when serious issues do occur during birth,” he said.

“We would encourage families to share their experiences and contribute to this consultation.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37652928

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