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Editor’s Notes #004: The repeated failures of maternity care

Nada Khan is an Exeter-based NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in general practice and GPST4/registrar, and an Associate Editor at the BJGP. She is on Twitter: @nadafkhan

In the time since I wrote the Editor’s briefing for the Women’s Health themed April issue, Donna Ockenden published the Independent Review of Maternity Services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust. The report makes for chilling reading, detailing repeated failures of care which led to the loss of lives of babies and their mothers.

…the report also highlights how GPs must be involved with safe and individualised antenatal care as well as clinical follow-up in the postnatal period.

Although most of the learning and action points from the Ockenden report are specific to obstetric and midwifery services, the report also highlights how GPs must be involved with safe and individualised antenatal care as well as clinical follow-up in the postnatal period. The two editorials by MacGregor and Schoenaker in the April issue seem timely; providing specific guidance about the important role GPs have to play in optimising the health of women before and during pregnancy in order to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality.

…only 1% of maternity services in England are rated as ‘outstanding’ in terms of providing safe care.

The findings of the Ockenden report have repeatedly been referred to as a ‘scandal’; indeed, the report has caused widespread public outrage and sorrow.  MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, however, reminds us that it is not long since women and babies suffered the ‘scandal’ of failings at the Morecombe Bay maternity unit.  Morecombe Bay and Shrewsbury may be described as ‘outliers’, but as pointed out on Woman’s Hour, only 1% of maternity services in England are rated as ‘outstanding’ in terms of providing safe care.  I can only hope that the messages from the Ockenden report, along with the other reports before it, are taken into account and implemented before we hear of another tragic mishandling of maternity care in the NHS.

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