Tommy’s response to the Department of Health’s announcement to improve Maternal Services, 17th October 2016

Tommy's welcomes the announcement for increased funding to tackle the unacceptable rates of stillbirth and neonatal deaths in the UK. We call for similar funding to be provided for pre-term cases.

Tommy’s response to the Department of Health’s announcement to improve Maternal Services, 17th October 2016

Today, the Department of Health is announcing news plans to improve the UK’s Maternal Services. The plans include increased funding to launch the Safer Maternity Care Action Plan. This plan aims to help deliver the national ambition to halve rates of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or shortly after birth by 2030.

The announcement follows the Maternal Services Review, which published its finding in February 2016. The UK has one of the highest stillbirth rates in Europe – the report made recommendations on how to tackle these unacceptable statistics.

What do the plans include?

Jeremy Hunt has announced that there will be an £8 million budget for training medical professionals across the UK so that trusts can improve their approaches to maternal safety.  It will also seek to make sure lessons are learnt and circulated from mistakes, so that parents who have suffered stillbirth or children with lifelong injuries as a result of traumatic birth can have access to answers and compensation, quickly.  

There will be at least £40,000 available to each Trust in England, and a £250,000 innovation fund for pioneering proposals for new ways to drive improvements in maternity safety.  In a speech this morning the Health Secretary will outline 10 key actions the NHS will take over the next year to improve maternity safety.

Tommy’s Chief Executive Jane Brewin welcomes the announcement and calls for similar funds to address the impacts of pre-term birth;

‘’Tommy's welcomes the governments focus on improving Maternity care and especially setting targets for reduction for stillbirth and neonatal death. Today sees the announcement of further funds to help the NHS achieve this important step change in care.

Tommy's will keep making the case for an additional target to reduce for pre-term birth which affects up to 60,000 babies a year. We have a once in a generation chance to realise better life chances for many babies and their families and we must seize this opportunity;  we urge the government to do so.

Tommy’s supporters should feel proud; not only have we supported preterm birth research for 25 years and pioneered specialist care for parents affected, but we also fund the Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre in Manchester, the only research centre dedicated to stillbirth in the UK. Our expertise has helped to shape and underpin this initiative.

I want to thank everyone who has supported Tommy’s and helped to make pregnancy and birth safer for all. We couldn’t conduct our pioneering research without you.’’

What are the 10 key actions of the Safer Maternity Care action plan?

 “Our NHS maternity staff do 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 and 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. These comprehensive measures will give practical support to help trusts improve their approach to safety – and help to foster an open and transparent culture so that the courts become a last resort not an automatic first step. 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.”

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary

Jeremy Hunt outlines the ten key actions of the scheme:

  1. The government will launch a consultation to develop a ’safe space’ to allow clinicians to speak openly about things that go wrong without fear that the information they disclose may be used against them in court or professional misconduct hearings.

  2. The new Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, modelled on the highly successful Air Accident Investigation Branch, will be up and running from April 2017.

  3. A Perinatal Mortality Review Tool will be developed to enable standardised recording and investigation of every single stillbirth and neonatal death to ensure that lessons are learned and shared far and wide across the system. 

  4. There will be a Rapid Resolution and Redress scheme.  This is a new, voluntary alternative to litigation that gives families in such cases access to support much earlier. It will establish the truth more quickly, with a rapid and robust investigation that ensures the correct lessons are learned.

  5. Today we will also commit to publish CCG ratings to show women and their families how their local health service is performing in maternity care. 

  6. We have also appointed two national maternity safety champions, Dr Matthew Jolly and Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, to lead this programme at a national level.

  7. We are announcing an £8 million Maternity Safety Training fund, administered by Health Education England. The funding will support Trusts across the country to use multi-disciplinary training to improve their maternity safety, with at least £40,000 available for every Trust with maternity services.

  8. We are also today announcing a £250,000 innovation fund for pioneering proposals for new ways to drive improvements in maternity safety. Trusts are invited to submit bids to develop and roll-out the best and brightest ideas.

  9. We are launching, with NHS Improvement, a new national Maternal and Neonatal Health Quality Improvement Programme for all trusts. This innovative new programme will provide structured support for maternity and neonatal teams to develop new ideas and turn them into plans for measureable improvements to their services.

  10.  Launching ‘Our Chance’, a public-facing communications campaign developed in partnership with charities Sands and Best Beginnings.

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