Baby Lifeline’s National Maternity Safety Conference 2021

On 9 September 2021 Baby Lifeline hosted the second annual National Maternity Safety Conference at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole! The theme of this year’s conference was Getting Safer Faster.

It was a brilliant day packed with powerful, inspiring, emotional and energising talks from clinicians, parents, researchers, experts, charities and politicians working across the UK to improve maternity and patient safety. Speakers covered national and international perspectives as they updated on patient safety, discussed learning from COVID-19, and shared best practice and current research. We were honoured to be joined by both of Baby Lifeline’s Honorary Presidents, Dr Bill Kirkup CBE and Donna Ockenden FRSA.

In his opening address, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt (Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee) praised the audience for their work towards the national ambition of reducing stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths, and brain injuries and babies that occur during or soon after birth by 50 per cent by 2025. He shared his hope that recommendations from experts are implemented and things continue to change by the time we meet at the next National Maternity Safety Conference.

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt: “In this world there isn’t always good news, but to get a 30% reduction in neonatal deaths is fantastic... and this is down to a lot of work in this room.”

We heard three excellent and inspiring Key Note addresses. The first was from maternity rights campaigner Nadine Montgomery, who generously shared the moving story of the birth of her baby, Sam, and her subsequent journey towards achieving a landmark ruling on medical consent. Her address reminded the audience that patients are at the heart of the work we do, and set the tone for the day: working together to get safer faster.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Maternity Care

In our first panel discussion – which was chaired by Dr Matthew Jolly (NHS England) – Gill Walton (Chief Executive, RCM) and Mr Eddie Morris (President, RCOG) shared thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on maternity services. They discussed key learning points from the pandemic and advocated for One Voice in dealing with systems change: “We need to take action… To focus on the things that are going to make the biggest difference. It’s a very exciting future.

Getting Safer Faster: Learning 

The second panel of the day was chaired by Shaun Lintern, Health Correspondent at The Independent, and discussed national learning in maternity safety. Ted Baker (CQC), Professor James Walker (HSIB), Dr Denise Chaffer (NHS Resolution) and Professor Marian Knight (MBRRACE-UK/University of Oxford) discussed learning from investigations and current work in the field of patient safety. Marian Knight encouraged us all to take responsibility for women’s safety by asking pregnant people to get their Covid vaccination.

We also enjoyed a Key Note speech from Sir Liam Donaldson (WHO), who shared a global perspective on avoidable harm and the fundamentals of unsafe care. He offered the following philosophy of care: “Make zero avoidable harm to patients a state of mind and a rule of engagement in the planning and delivery of healthcare everywhere.

Dr Christine Ekechi: “Health inequality is not an add-on… We have seen racial inequalities since 2010, and they have been widening.”

During the afternoon we heard from experts in improving maternity services, chaired by Sascha Wells-Munro OBE (NHS England). Dr Gloria Rowland (NHS South West London), Dr Christine Ekechi (RCOG), Professor Mary Dixon-Woods (THIS Institute) and Sara Ledger (Baby Lifeline) presented their current work on unequal outcomes, reducing inequalities, and evidence-based approaches to learning on the frontline. The panel discussed training provision and culture in the UK, agreeing that “cultural competency and implicit bias training must be embedded in the wider training programme.”

Person-Centred Care in Maternity

In our final panel (chaired by Donna Ockenden FRSA), Dr Alison Wright (Royal Free Hospital), Sarah Noble (South Warwickshire FT) and Charlotte Bevan (Sands) spoke about centring patients in maternity care. Themes included consent, choice, continuity of care, the PMRT Parent Engagement Tool and the IDECIDE Consent Tool. Charlotte Bevan spoke poignantly about the importance of engaging parents early in reviews when things go wrong and her perspective in the loss of her baby, Hope.

Charlotte Bevan: “The mixture of feelings when you lose a baby are guilt, distrust, you lose faith, and you feel uncertainty.”

The Next Steps Towards the National Ambition

To end the day, Baroness Julia Cumberlege called for more funding for maternity and neonatal services in her Closing Key Note about the next steps towards the National Ambition. “We mustn’t make exceptions, our services must be right for all,” she said. She also focussed on the importance of good leadership: “Managers are necessary, but leaders are essential.”

As he closed the conference, Dr Bill Kirkup CBE summarised two key messages that recurred throughout the day that will help us to Get Safer Faster: the stark statistics on inequalities (and the need to reduce inequalities in healthcare), and the importance of working together.

We hope that the conference was a valuable and informative opportunity to celebrate progress and share learning, whilst also offering a chance to discuss and reflect on the challenges ahead.

We are looking forward to #MatSafety2022 already and hope to see you there!

We extend a huge thank you to all of today’s speakers for their time and for sharing their expertise at this event, and a special thank you to our headline sponsors, Leigh Day and Hudgell Solicitors, for their invaluable support. Heartfelt thanks also to our exhibitors: Cardiac Services, Cranfield University, Essity, Limbs & Things, MedBrief, MAMA Academy, NHS Resolution, Serious Hazards of Transfusion (SHOT), SurePulse Medical, Slater and Gordon, Ultrasound Direct, Wellbeing Software, SP Services, ICT Healthcare & Technology Solutions, and MedLed Ltd.

Thank you to our Multi-Professional Advisory Panel and our Family Voices Group for their expertise and advice.

Thank you also to our poster presenters, and congratulations to our winner, Kelly Williams, and our runners-up, Bernadette Chubb, Rebecca Cockings and Lesley Turner.

Were you there? Let us know what you thought! #MatSafety2021 @BabyLifeline