Baby scheme “removes fear of litigation as barrier to safety”

Birth injuries: Unprecedented speed to liability admission

An NHS early notification (EN) scheme for serious brain injuries in babies has led to early admissions of liability in 24 cases, cutting the time taken to resolution from an average of more than a decade down to less than two.

A progress report on the operation of the scheme in its first year that in the 24 cases – out of 746 that qualified between April 2017 and March 2018 – liability was admitted within an average of 18 months.

The families affected were given a formal apology and “in some cases”, financial help with care.

Before the scheme began, the average length of time between an incident occurring and an award for compensation being made was 11.5 years.

Early admissions were made between three months and two years from the incidents.

The report, which said a number of further cases were currently being reviewed, said the speed with which the cohort had been resolved was “unprecedented for claims related to brain injury and/or cerebral palsy”.

An analysis of half of the 200 cases where NHS Resolution panel solicitors were asked to investigate liability due to suspected sub-standard care, or where the family instructed solicitors, found a range of failings.

These included “limited support to staff, insufficient family involvement, and confusion over duty of candour”, issues with fetal monitoring, impacted fetal head and/or difficult delivery of the head at caesarean section and concurrent maternal medical emergencies in labour.

It also found “immediate neonatal care and resuscitation” was important in almost a third of the cases.

Among other things, the report recommended all families whose baby met EN criteria should be given an apology, a description of the intended investigation process, and options for their involvement.

The report said: “Our ambition is that litigation or the fear of litigation should not be seen as a barrier to safety…

“It is hoped that this process has simultaneously reduced the burden on staff involved in recounting events, avoiding protracted legal investigations and attending court.”

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