Medical students find it difficult to get meaningful access to pregnant women, and even harder to perform deliveries. The “protection” that the midwives offer to patients is worse for male medics than for female, but exists for all. As more women have fewer children at an older age it gets more risky… It is safer to concentrate care… Junior doctors are being deskilled in Maternity… and this needs to be reversed.
Babies are dying because maternity services have been “hijacked by militant natural childbirth promoters”, bereaved parents claim.
An investigation is under way into a cluster of baby deaths involving the same avoidable mistake by midwives at an NHS trust that has been accused of being “in denial” about repeating the error.
Campaigners say the failings illustrate broader problems of a “deep-rooted ideology” in midwifery that prioritises “normal” childbirth, without medical intervention.
Last week Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, ordered an investigation into seven avoidable baby deaths in two years at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust.
Five of the deaths involved failure to monitor the baby’s heart rate properly and regulators will look at whether the deaths were investigated properly to help avoid repeating the problem.
The deaths took place between 2014 and 2016. The parents of Kate Stanton-Davies, who died at the trust’s Ludlow community hospital in 2009, said action should have been taken long ago.
An independent review concluded last year that Kate’s death had been avoidable but the trust “abdicated its responsibility” by failing to investigate properly.
“What these deaths show is that this trust is in denial and from what they are saying they honestly don’t believe there is a problem,” Kate’s mother, Rhiannon Davies, said. Deaths include those of Ella and Lola Greene, twins who were stillborn at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital after delays in spotting heart-rate deterioration.
A baby’s brain can be starved of oxygen if doctors do not hasten birth when its heart rate deteriorates, causing death or brain damage. The Times revealed two years ago that a quarter of NHS maternity negligence payouts involved such failures, costing the health service £268 million in 2015.
Ms Davies said: “This is not just about how a heart monitor is used, this is all about a top-down toxic culture. As well as understaffing there is a seeming disregard for mothers’ wishes during childbirth. The midwives’ role has been hijacked by militant natural birth promoters. They are not listening to mothers’ concerns and are pushing for natural birth at any and all cost. Babies are dying . . . because of the agenda.”
Midwives are taught to encourage women to have “normal” births, without anaesthetic, forceps, induction or caesarean. Many such births happen in midwife-only units or at home.
A major review concluded the practice was generally safe but two years ago a review into the death of 11 babies and one mother at the Morecambe Bay trust condemned midwives’ pursuit of natural childbirth “at any cost”.
James Titcombe, who pushed for that inquiry after the death of his son Joshua, said the events at Shrewsbury and Telford “have all the hallmarks of being another Morecambe Bay”.
The trust declined to comment yesterday.
Its the start that matters. Maternity and child care is important and plans to fund child care will help… but “Britain has one of the lowest breast-feeding rates in the world, with only 50 per cent of mothers managing it for six weeks”