UK birth-trauma inquiry delivered gritty truths, but change will be hard

With many NHS maternity services struggling and a shortage of midwives, MPs’ plan for overhaul is ambitious

That the findings of the UK’s first inquiry into birth trauma are far from surprising does not diminish the fact that they are shocking, devastating and difficult – indeed distressing – to read. The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for birth trauma’s 80-page report should give ministers, NHS bosses and the midwives and obstetricians who deliver care serious pause for thought.

It highlights how “mistakes and failures” by maternity staff lead to stillbirths, premature births, babies being born with cerebral palsy because they were starved of oxygen at birth, and “life-changing injuries to women as the result of severe tearing”. How some mothers were mocked, shouted at, denied pain relief, not told what was going on during their labour, left alone in blood-stained sheets, with desperate bell calls for help going unanswered – all examples of “care that lacked compassion”. And how, in some cases, “these errors were covered up by hospitals who frustrated parents’ efforts to find answers”. It amounts to a shameful catalogue of negligence in the only area of NHS care where two lives – one still unborn – are on the line.

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