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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Trust: Millions paid for birth injuries

The Trust says that the safety of mothers and babies is their "absolute priority

The Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) has paid out a staggering £15m in birth injury compensation over the past two years.

This concerning finding comes amid claims of “shockingly poor” maternity care being provided at NHS hospital trusts across the country.

Data acquired through a Freedom of Information request showed that CHFT paid a total of £15,152,542 between November 2021 and November 2023 for injuries sustained by mothers and babies during birth.

Gemma Puckett, Director of Midwifery and Women’s Services at CHFT said: “The safety of mothers and their babies is our absolute priority, and this is reflected in our recent Care Quality Commission rating of ‘Good’ for maternity services.

“The £15m figure quoted includes claims dating back to 2016 and is not an accurate reflection of the number of claims received between November 2021 and November 2023. Our benchmarking data from 2022/2023 shows that both the number and cost of claims made during that period is in line with the national average for trusts of our size with maternity services.”

The information has been brought to light following the launch of the first-ever UK parliamentary inquiry into birth trauma being set up earlier this year. Conservative MP, Theo Clarke is co-chair of the inquiry alongside Labour MP, Rosie Duffield. The first hearing is set for Monday, 5 February, with results due to be published in April.

In the House of Commons last month, Ms Clarke spoke of how the issue of birth trauma is “a real taboo” while recounting her own birthing horror after having to undergo emergency surgery for a serious third-degree tear while giving birth to her daughter after a 40-hour labour. 

The Birth Trauma Association (BTA) is a supporter and contributor to the inquiry and says there have been many tales of “shockingly poor care” within maternity units of the NHS. 

Kim Thomas Image: Kim Thomas

CEO of the BTA, Kim Thomas said: “We know from what women tell us that experiences of shockingly poor care are also common in the NHS. But these women find that they are rarely listened to – often complaints to hospitals are met with attempts to minimise the woman’s trauma and deny responsibility.”

According to NHS Resolution, “maternity claims represent the highest value and second highest number of clinical negligence claims.”

Ms Thomas continued: “Birth trauma wasn’t talked about at all until relatively recently. Many women tell us they were completely unaware of, for example, the possibility of sustaining injuries as a result of birth. We think this is partly because there is a widespread attitude that we shouldn’t make pregnant women feel frightened of labour, but also because there is a tendency to trivialise and ignore women’s health problems.

“When women do develop trauma symptoms after birth, they are often told by others to ‘move on’ and to feel grateful that they have a healthy baby.

“At the moment, a lot of birth injuries go undiagnosed, causing serious problems. A third or fourth-degree tear, also known as an anal sphincter tear, can be repaired if diagnosed early enough, but if left untreated, it can leave women with lifelong faecal incontinence, which can be very distressing.”

She added: “At the Birth Trauma Association, we hear a lot of stories of birth injuries caused by medical negligence. However, many women never receive compensation for these injuries. Contrary to public perception, suing the NHS can be very hard.”

The above information was gathered by Legalexpert.co.uk which offers specialist advice and support to mothers regarding birth injuries claims. They operate a 24-hour helpline and live chat service which can be accessed via their website.

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