'Bickering and scaremongering' could risk safety of mothers and babies

Laura Donnelly
Negligence claims for maternity blunders make up a large share of compensation - Dominic Lipinksi/PA 

Mothers and babies could end up harmed by warring among midwives over “natural” births, the head of an NHS safety inquiry has warned.

Earlier this month, it emerged that the Royal College of Midwives had abandoned a decade-long campaign for “normal births”.

The “over-zealous” pursuit of natural childbirth “at any cost” had previously been implicated in the Morecambe Bay scandal, in which 11 babies died.

Dr Bill Kirkup, who led the investigation into the scandal, yesterday welcomed the decision by the Royal College to drop the term.

But he said he had been “dismayed” by the reaction he had seen since the decision emerged, with “bickering and scaremongering” from all sides.

And he said such rifts and increasing “polarisation” of the arguments around childbirth could undermine efforts to improve patient safety, and childbirth experiences.

James Titcombe, who campaigned for campaigned for maternity safety since the death of his son Joshua at Morecambe Bay, said he had been shocked by the hostility he encountered from some opposed to the change of stance.

While Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the college, defended the decision to drop the term, the new president of the college opposed the move - stating “this is war now” in a now-deleted tweet.

Last week, safety campaigners said a record rise in claims for babies left brain-damaged by NHS blunders was being fuelled by a “cult-like fixation” on normal birth.

 

Jeremy Hunt has set out plans which aim to dramatically reduce the number of tragedies where babies die or are harmed for life  Credit: Eddie Mulholland

Bereaved parents made 232 such claims against the NHS in 2016/17 - a 23 per cent rise from 188 cases the year before, the official figures show.

A former president of the college went on to suggest the trend could be being caused by too much intervention.

Writing on hsj.co.uk, Dr Kirkup said: “It is vital that we stop polarising this argument, and drop the scaremongering claims on both sides. Safety is not inimical to a good experience of childbirth, and informed choice is not inimical to safety.”

“If we continue to bicker, those most harmed will be the women and babies we are all trying to help.”

Dr Kirkup said the debate following the RCM’s announcement had concerned him. “I’ve been dismayed, both by the unnecessarily personal tone of these exchanges, and by some of its content,” he said.

Baby Joshua Titcombe died after hospital staff failed to provide antibiotics for an infection 

 

 

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