p to 1,000 babies a year would survive if improvements in maternity safety were implemented more quickly, MPs have said.

The Health and Social Care Committee commissioned an expert panel to evaluate the Government’s key policy commitments on maternity services.

It found that all key areas were either performing below expected levels or inadequate. There were also too few staff.

The experts in maternity and patient safety, including its chair Professor Dame Jane Dacre and Sir Robert Francis QC, reported to MPs that, while there has been “significant progress” in reducing stillbirths and neonatal deaths, more needs to be done to reduce the premature birth rate, and the whole area of patient safety “requires improvement”.

They added: “While efforts have been made to reduce the rate of brain injuries occurring during or soon after birth, there is little evidence targets are on course to be met.

“There has been no significant progress in reducing the rate of maternal death.”

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the committee’s chairman, said: “Although the majority of NHS births are totally safe, failings in maternity services can have a devastating outcome for the families involved.


“Despite a number of high-profile incidents, improvements in maternity safety are still not happening quickly enough.

“Although the NHS deserves credit for reducing baby deaths and stillbirths significantly, around 1,000 more babies would live every year if our maternity services were as safe as Sweden.

“Our biggest concerns were around staffing and culture: staffing levels have now started to improve but we found a persisting ‘culture of blame’ when things go wrong, which not only prevents people admitting that mistakes were made but, crucially, prevents anyone learning from them.

“Our independent expert panel gave an overall verdict of ‘requires improvement’, which sends a strong message that the Government and the NHS need to redouble their efforts ahead of the Ockenden report into Shrewsbury and Telford and the Kirkup report into East Kent.

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