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Lawyers have welcomed the preliminary report published this week by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists relating to hospital investigations concerning babies who die or are severely brain damaged during labour.
For many years parents of babies who are stillborn or who suffer severe brain damage during labour have criticised the often inadequate and one sided investigations of serious incidents in hospital labour wards. Many parents feel isolated and ignored in an investigative process which frequently fails to address the concerns of parents who have suffered traumatic and life changing events during the course of the birth of a child. The preliminary report submitted to the NHS confirms that in over 27% of cases investigations are either of poor quality or wholly inadequate. More disturbingly, in over three quarters of cases the report concludes that parents are seldom involved in the investigating process in any “meaningful way” resulting in wholly avoidable feelings of distress and isolation. The findings of the report are helpfully summarised on the BBC Health Website.
Director of Novum law Neil Elliott has commented “Hopefully the submission of this preliminary report will begin to pave the way to a more open and inclusive process for the investigation of circumstances where babies have died or sustained severe brain damage during the course of their birth. Despite the Department of Health’s emphasis upon the importance of openness and honesty in relation to serious incidents which occur in hospitals, there continues to be disturbing lack of transparency in relation to many hospital investigations. Lawyers supporting families in relation to incidents of this type often rightly make the point that greater openness and transparency at an earlier stage would often simplify the investigative progress and ultimately help to reduce the expense and complexity of both the investigations and also the claims for damages which often subsequently ensue. The preliminary report published by the Royal College is therefore to be welcomed”.
The final report is due to be published in 2017 and will hopefully contain wider recommendations as to changes which should be implemented with a view to creating a more effective, less distressing and far more cost effective procedure.