Cautious welcome to Select Committee report on maternity services

Published: 8 Jul 2021

AvMA has given a cautious welcome to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee report on maternity services in England published on 6th July. AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh said:

“The report is spot on about many of the challenges faced by maternity services in England and the urgent need to improve safety in them. We particularly welcome the emphasis on safer staffing levels; personalised care; learning from incidents including from litigation; and developing a just patient safety culture. We agree with the committee that better ways of compensating babies and families affected by avoidable harm in healthcare and the proposal to use the threshold of ‘avoidability’ rather than ‘negligence’ to qualify for compensation. However, we have serious reservations about the recommendation to introduce the Rapid Resolution and Redress (RRR) scheme proposals unless they are significantly modified. The committee has also misunderstood the current litigation system and its proposal to deny families the full compensation that they would receive under the current justice system is misguided and unfair”.

AvMA agrees that the current Early Notification Scheme (ENS) run by NHS Resolution is not satisfactory in that it lacks independence and transparency; compensates far to few families; takes too long and uses the definition of ‘negligence’ rather than ‘avoidability’. However, the original RRR scheme proposals consulted upon by the Government again lacked independence and any independent advice and support for families and would have had its administration costs met by taking away compensation needed by the babies who had been harmed.

The committee also recommends that families and babies affected by avoidable harm have less access to justice than the justice system provides to people injured in other settings in society. It recommends scrapping the current definition of British justice by scrapping the right to have private care paid for through compensation and the principle that people are compensated for their actual losses and costs rather than what the NHS deems it can afford or is prepared to pay.