Every year in England there are almost 700,000 live births. In 2012/13, the associated maternity care cost the NHS around £2.6 billion. Having a baby is the most common reason for a hospital admission, but maternity is a unique area of the NHS because the services support predominantly healthy women through a natural life event that does not always require doctor-led intervention.
While most of these births are successful, in 2014/15 the NHS Litigation Authority reported that maternity claims represented the highest value of clinical negligence claims and the fourth highest by volume. Obstetrics claims equated to approximately 41% of the £1.1bn paid by the NHS Litigation Authority last year. 2015 Survey of women’s experiences of matenity care, statistical release – Care Quality Commision (NHS)
What we should be asking is-what going wrong with the care that there is such high levels of litigation every year. All too often the media blame those women requesting caesareans in the absence of medical need. (Remember NICE themselves found that the cost of a vaginal birth that requires an anaesthitist (epidural or spinal pain relief) and any additional intervention e.g. episiotomy, tear repairs, prolonged hospital stay (2 nights or more) etc. bumps the cost to almost exactly the same as a planned caesarean with no medical emergency. Blaming these women and labelling them too posh to push is ignoring the elephant in the room – not enough midwives.
Despite an overall increase in the number of midwives there is still a shortage of 2,300 that are required to meet current birth rates – a truly worrying figure. Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts 2014