National Health Executive | Published online: 17 October 2016
Families who suffer problems during childbirth as a result of failings in care could claim compensation without legal proceedings under new proposals.
The DH said there is a danger that clinicians are being discouraged from speaking openly about mistakes which led to births going wrong, including children developing disabilities, out of fear of litigation.
It said it would open a consultation on introducing a rapid resolution and redress scheme, which would investigate incidents. Where harm was found to be avoidable, it could offer families regular financial support without the need for legal proceedings, as well as counselling, case management and legal advice.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said: “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.”
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