In the upcoming year, seven cities throughout the UK will adopt recommendations put forth in the Better Births report, tasking the country’s health care system with improving the quality of maternity care across the board. The broad recommendations include a significant amount of funding for maternity care training, innovation, and safe spaces for providers to share ideas about what quality maternity care looks like; each city promising to adopt the recommendations will focus efforts on increasing the personalization of care to expectant mothers, granting easier access to care thing a single location, and collaborating with community services to manage ever-growing caseloads.
Through the Safer Maternity Care plan announced earlier this year, the country’s maternity care advocates added a provision to make the process of receiving compensation for poor-quality care easier on patients and their families. A rapid resolution and redress scheme is intended to scale back the costs associated with litigation and the lengthy claims process when tragic outcomes, like stillbirths, maternal and neonatal injuries, and death, take place within the healthcare system. While reducing the overall expense of the legal process for suffering families is important in lifting the financial burden off the shoulders of the health care system, the new rapid compensation program stands to leave some patients wanting.
Fighting Litigation Culture
The Better Births report predicts that nearly 1% of maternity care patients, including mothers and their newborns, suffer from an avoidable injury or death while under the care of a UK medical provider. With just under 700,000 births in the last year, and a projected increase in years to come, the fight against litigation culture throughout the NHS is a glaring need. However, the suggested rapid resolution and redress scheme may not be the best choice for patients and their families. Instead of going through outside legal channels to get their complaints heard and the financial support they need to move ahead with life after a negligent outcome, the program offers patients the chance to request compensation from a board of medical professionals who determine what, if any, amount is due based on their circumstances.
Unfortunately, the rapid resolution and redress scheme comes with several caveats, the most pressing being a lack of communication. A representative from a leading medical solicitor firm that handles numerous maternity care negligence claims each year, explains that financial compensation is toward the bottom of the priority list for families. Instead, they want answers as to what took place, why it took place, and who is ultimately responsible. The compensation scheme fails to afford patients the opportunity to get this critical information which can exacerbate the loss exponentially.
In addition to lacking communication with the hospital, patients who take part in the recommended program may be left without sufficient means to manage ongoing treatment or changes to the quality of their lifestyle. Part of the litigation process is understanding the full breadth of the circumstances and receiving compensation to cover each of those expenses. When the process is expedited and taken out of the capable hands of the court, patients and their families may be left without adequate financial support – and no recourse to receive it in the future.
Reducing the number of medical mistakes and oversight that takes place within the UK’s maternity care offices should be the intended purpose of the Safer Maternity Care Plan. Although the rapid resolution and redress scheme may work to mitigate some of the costs associated with poor-quality care within the UK’s health care system, only time will tell if the program works to the benefit of the hospitals more so than patients and their families. Fortunately, the influx of funding through the Safer Maternity Care plan lays the groundwork for the establishment and implementation of better training and innovation in the field, which may help toward achieving positive, sustainable outcomes for the most vulnerable patient population and their loved ones.