Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has launched a new voluntary compensation scheme for parents whose babies are damaged at birth.
It is hoped the rapid resolution and redress programme for parents who believe medical errors caused damage such as cerebral palsy or brain damage, will give parents an alternative to litigation as the first step.
Their claim would be assessed by investigators working independently from the NHS trust where errors allegedly occurred, and they would quiz NHS staff and parents and look at medical records.
Their findings would be presented to a panel of legal and medical experts who would decide whether any compensation is warranted and arrange for payments to be made.
The NHS Litigation Authority says the compensation bill to the NHS for errors that occurred during birth rose from £393.2m in 2014/15 to £509.3m in 20105/16.
The new scheme would work out cheaper for the NHS than the current route, in which cases are litigated by lawyers before they are settled in or out of court, often for millions of pounds each.
Launching the scheme today, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will offer to fund the scheme’s training programme to the tune of £8m, with at least £40,000 going to each NHS trust in England.
A new £250,000 maternity safety innovation fund will pilot new ideas for improving care, while maternity ratings for every part of England – using data that already exists – will be published.
Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: We welcome the Government’s commitment and long-term investment into improving the safety of maternity care.
The UK is a safe place to give birth, however, the pressures on maternity services are growing and stretched and understaffed services affect the quality of care provided to both mothers and babies.
Doctors and midwives must train and work in multi-professional teams to ensure that women receive a high quality and safe service.