Royal Colleges put maternity safety first in joint written response

on 16 December 2020

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have published a joint statement on prioritising maternity safety in the UK.

The written statement has come shortly after the Chief Executive of RCM, Gill Walton, and President of RCOG, Dr Edward Morris gave joint oral evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Committee maternity safety inquiry (Tuesday 15 December 2020).

Both RCM and RCOG’s vision includes a national maternity safety centre to bring together fragmented elements of maternity care and take on a range of initiatives to improve learning and focus on care where it is most needed.

The centre would also have specific staff training such as fetal monitoring and information development for pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy.

CEO for RCM Gill Walton said: “Reports on failing and failed maternity services, like the Ockenden report published last week, have shown consistently, similar problems that led to damaged mothers, damaged babies and deaths. We have all got to work together to stop this happening and put safety right at the top of the agenda from where it must never move.

“It must be the driving force behind every decision made in maternity services, from the midwives and maternity support workers at the front line through trust chief executives to the highest levels of government. Safety also need the right numbers of staff, in the right place, and whose skills are regularly updated with the right training. This means investing in staff and in services, which is investing in safety.”

President of RCOG Dr Edward Morris said: “The most important thing is that maternity services across the UK provide the best possible care for women and their families. Sadly, we know that for various reasons – such as those tragic experiences of families in the Ockenden review – failures in care do happen and women and their babies are the ones that pay the price.

“We believe introducing a centre dedicated to improving maternity safety will significantly improve the system in the UK. Reducing risk needs a holistic approach that both targets the specific challenges of fetal monitoring interpretation and strengthens organisational functioning, culture and behaviour – all of which will be key priorities for the centre.”

The Royal Colleges also highlighted the critical importance of tackling poor and dysfunctional working relationships in maternity teams which has been a persistent factor in failing maternity services.