As of 31st March 2023, NHS Resolution reported that 65% of the NHS’ total clinical negligence provision related to maternity services. Whilst it’s encouraging that this is a 5% reduction from the previous year, this still costs the NHS £45 billion a year and has a huge impact on the families who have received poor maternity care.
This is clearly a huge problem for the NHS who are committed to taking action to provide safe care for mothers and their babies. The steps outlined in the Safer Maternity Care Action Plan outline the plans to halve the 2010 rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries in babies occurring soon or after birth by 2025.
In her 2022 letter to the Secretary of State for Healthcare, Donna Ockendon’s independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust references the significant pressures that maternity services experience in recruiting and retaining midwives and obstetricians. The report recommends more funding for the maternity multi-professional workforce and wants to establish a working group to support the work of the Maternity Transformation Programme. They also want to make sure a voice is given to the individuals and the families who were denied the quality of maternity care that should be a standard across the profession.
For many people who have experienced clinical negligence during pregnancy or birth, there are potential life-altering consequences. This means families require financial compensation so that they can meet the ongoing needs of the child or to acknowledge the impact of the pain and trauma that the mother experienced as a result of the negligence.
A highly experienced and respected midwife expert is essential to act as an expert witness for any clinical negligence claim regarding maternity care. Here, we look at how a midwife expert witness can strengthen your medical malpractice case and use some case examples to illustrate their role in a midwifery clinical negligence claim.
How a midwife expert witness can strengthen your medical malpractice case
A midwife medico-legal expert will provide an expert opinion for legal cases based on their experience of standard practice as a midwife.
A midwife expert witness would look at the following areas to establish potential liability in a negligence case:
- Duty – did the patient receive the correct level of care from the midwife?
- Deviation – did the midwife deviate from their duty of care?
- Direct Causation – has the mother or child experienced any complications, pain, injury or trauma as a result of the negligence? A midwife expert witness would use their expert opinion to establish whether there is a direct link between the treatment given and the harm that the mother or child experienced.
- Damages – a midwife medico-legal expert witness report would need to determine the correct level of damages to be awarded as a result of the negligence. Damages may be awarded for any financial, social or psychological losses.
The role of a midwife expert witness in birth injury litigation
Although the majority of pregnancies and births are successful, there are some instances where specialist treatment or interventions are required to ensure the safe delivery of the baby and to protect the mother’s health. Here are some examples of negligent midwifery practice:
- Misinterpreting the reading of a CTG (cardio-tocograph)
- Failure to identify haemorrhages, including placental abruption or secondary postpartum haemorrhage
- Failing to treat pressure ulcers during labour
- Undiagnosed third degree perineal tears
- Retaining placental tissue
- Failing to recognise slow insidious vaginal bleeding within 24 hours of birth
- Delays in recognising life threatening sepsis
The case of Callaghan v South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust explains how an expert can provide legal medical testimony as a midwife expert witness in the case of clinical negligence.
The claimant’s daughter, Imogen was born on 26 May 2014, and both mother and baby were discharged two days later. Imogen sadly died a few days later from Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacterial meningitis and septicaemia.
The claimant alleged that her and Imogen were wrongly discharged from hospital without the full set of observations taking place or a suitable feeding plan established. Had Imogen remained in hospital for longer and the correct observations taken place, signs of sepsis would have been identified and the paediatric review would have allowed her to receive urgent intravenous antibiotic treatment.
Acting as a medical witness for court, the midwife expert witnesses reviewed the medical notes and confirmed the NICE guideline on neonatal infection raised the difference between a risk factor and a clinical indicator. The midwife expert witness confirmed that there were no risk factors in this case and that it was a case of clinical judgement whether the feeding issue was an indication of sepsis. Expert witness testimony was provided from two Paediatric Infectious disease experts.
Whilst the judge concluded that this was a tragic case and noted that the defendant’s record keeping was below standard, the breaches of duty did not cause Imogen’s untimely death.
What qualifications to look for in a midwife expert witness
Our midwifery expert witnesses typically work within the NHS as well as provide medico-legal advisory services.
Every medico-legal expert witness undertakes the Cardiff University Bond Solon Expert Witness Certificate and have relevant qualifications and training in the field of midwifery, including a BSc in Midwifery Practice, Master of Science in Research in Midwifery Studies or a Postgraduate Diploma in Midwifery.
Miss Maria A Buaki-Sogo is both a practicing nurse and a midwife who can provide expert evidence.
Instructing Miss Maria A Buaki-Sogo
If you want to instruct Miss Buaki-Sogo, or if you want to discuss using Miss Buaki-Sogo for your case, please contact us.
Jayne Marie, formally Utting – is an experienced midwife with over 23 years of experience and an accredited expert witness. Jayne is able to take instructions for both Claimant and Defendant cases as well as those regarding Professional Regulation and Fitness to Practice issues and can offer premium turnaround with suitable cases.
Instructing Jayne Marie
If you want to instruct Jayne Marie or if you want to discuss using Jayne Marie for your case, please contact us.