Detrimental gaps in maternity training are putting mothers and babies at risk

 

Detrimental gaps in maternity training are putting mothers and babies at risk

Coventry, 23rd November 2021

UK maternity charity Baby Lifeline has today launched the third edition of its comprehensive Mind the Gap report, which once again shows there is not sufficient on-going training for maternity health professionals. Baby Lifeline is urging the Government to commit funding to address the issues that this report highlights, in particular to ensure the correct level of training is delivered and that the staffing is in place to allow for that training.

Mind the Gap has been compiled from data received from Freedom of Information requests submitted to NHS Trusts and examines the on-going training actually delivered to maternity professionals.

The report shows that NHS trusts are delivering less training today – and are spending less on it – than they were in 2017/18. This is a worrying decline, because training is a central recommendation for improving safety in maternity services in most reports investigating avoidable harm in maternity and the deaths of mothers and babies, including the recent Ockenden report into serious failures at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact, but in many ways it has served to expose existing gaps and structural issues caused by chronic under-funding over many years.

Judy Ledger, Chief Executive and Founder of Baby Lifeline said:

“Today’s report highlights how gaps and variation in the delivery of maternity training across the NHS continues to impact on the safety and care women, birthing people, and babies receive. Time and again evidence shows that training investment can save lives, and the pandemic has widened existing, detrimental gaps that years of chronic under-funding and staff shortages have created.

“How many more reports into maternity services with similar findings will there be, and how many more families have to suffer, before we see the changes we need?”

In order to allow the maternity workforce access to all the training that they need and deserve, the Government should provide:

  • Dedicated and targeted funding for the direct costs of training, including staff backfill
  • Investment in systems and infrastructure to allow training to take place. This is particularly important in light of the pandemic, as much training has moved to a virtual setting
  • A solution to the workforce shortage that is plaguing maternity services

Failing to address inequalities

Recent evidence from MBRRACE-UK has highlighted the stark inequalities in maternity services with poorer outcomes for mothers and babies from the most deprived areas, and from Black, Asian and mixed ethnic groups. However, fewer than three in four organisations considering their local population needs when deciding training priorities, just one in five include scenarios involving women whose first language is not English in their emergency skills and drills training, and less than one-third of providers include identification of clinical signs in Black and Brown skin in their emergency skills and drills training.

Failing to meet requirements

The report provides eviscerating evidence that the majority of NHS organisations are still falling short of implementing all elements of key measures mandated by NHS schemes, which are designed to improve outcomes and reduce avoidable harm.

Only three organisations (3%) indicated that they provided all aspects of training exactly as specified in The Maternity Incentive Scheme guidance document. The scheme was introduced by NHS Resolution in 2017 and financially rewards trusts that are taking action to improve maternity safety.

In addition, although there was an increase in the provision of training recommended by the Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle, fewer than one quarter of maternity services provided all the training elements outlined by the bundle.

Sara Ledger, Head of Research and Development at Baby Lifeline said:

“It has long been clear that investment in maternity training saves lives and prevents avoidable harm. Our previous report shows that the Government’s 2017/18 funding had this positive impact. But this new research very clearly shows we need a new commitment to arrest the decline we have seen since then, and to support maternity professionals to give better and safer care to mothers, birthing people, and their babies.

“The Government’s recent announcement of £3 million to prevent brain injuries in childbirth is welcome. However, the expectations of maternity services to improve have never been higher, and this report highlights that services are not being given the right infrastructure to support the work. Training is obstructed by staff shortages, IT systems that are not fit-for-purpose, and there is a universal lack of venues. These problems existed before the pandemic and have only become worse.”

 

Baby Lifeline’s report has identified essential areas where funding must be targeted, to improve maternity outcomes. They are to:

  • Support the comprehensive roll out of current NHS maternity safety schemes
  • Expand multi-specialist maternity training provision
  • Enhance data collection on training outcomes
  • Provide new equipment and resources to facilitate better training

 

Almost all maternity services (97%) identified barriers to providing training to the workforce. There was an increase in barriers identified overall from 2017/18, with venue availability and restrictions becoming more of an obstacle, and inadequate and insufficient IT systems inhibiting online attendance.

The report shows a decline since the funding injection of the last Maternity Safety Training Fund in 2017/18. Today’s call for additional funding comes as the charity urges the Government to enter the post Covid crisis era with a comprehensive commitment to long-term training and resource provision for the sector.

The research team sent Freedom of Information requests to 150 NHS maternity services across the UK. 124 UK maternity providers sent a response, which equates to 83% of the Trusts. 26 organisations provided no response.

 

 

ENDS————–

 

For more information about Baby Lifeline or the report itself, please call – Sara Ledger (07572 037537), Tim Smith  (07816 661478), or the Baby Lifeline office (01676 534671).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Background information on Baby Lifeline

 

Baby Lifeline was founded 40 years ago by nurse Judy Ledger, following the personal tragedy of losing three premature babies. The charity has purchased millions of pounds’ worth of equipment for maternity and neonatal units, produced nationally recognised reports and research projects, and provided continuing professional development training for over 25,000 maternity healthcare professionals, with 10,000 of these receiving training in the past three of years. Predominantly training UK professionals, the charity has ventured to other parts of the world including Kuwait, when shortly after the last Gulf war Baby Lifeline worked with army humanitarian units and the British Embassy to train Iraqi and Kuwaiti health professionals.

 

Baby Lifeline is a truly unique organisation that works to support our wonderful NHS professionals in preventing avoidable tragedies in pregnancy and childbirth. The way that it operates is highly collaborative and unique. A panel of world-renowned multi-professional experts informing its decisions, and its training delivered by frontline NHS professionals. Baby Lifeline works closely with a wide range of national and international organisations, recognising that it can only truly achieve the goals if everyone is pulling in the same direction.

 

There have been some tremendous advancements in maternity care in recent times, but it is widely recognised that more needs to be done, particularly if the Government wants to meet its ambition to halve stillbirth, neonatal and maternal deaths by 2025.

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