UK maternity charity Baby Lifeline has recently launched the third edition of its comprehensive Mind the Gap report, which once again shows there is not sufficient on-going training for maternity health professionals.
Baby Lifeline is urging the Government to commit funding to address the issues that this report highlights, in particular to ensure the correct level of training is delivered and that the staffing is in place to allow for that training.
Mind the Gap has been compiled from data received from Freedom of Information requests submitted to NHS Trusts and examines the on-going training actually delivered to maternity professionals.
The report shows that NHS trusts are delivering less training today – and are spending less on it – than they were in 2017/18. This is a worrying decline, because training is a central recommendation for improving safety in maternity services in most reports investigating avoidable harm in maternity and the deaths of mothers and babies, including the recent Ockenden report into serious failures at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact, but in many ways it has served to expose existing gaps and structural issues caused by chronic under-funding over many years.
Judy Ledger, Chief Executive and Founder of Baby Lifeline said: “The report highlights how gaps and variation in the delivery of maternity training across the NHS continues to impact on the safety and care women, birthing people, and babies receive. Time and again evidence shows that training investment can save lives, and the pandemic has widened existing, detrimental gaps that years of chronic under-funding and staff shortages have created.
“How many more reports into maternity services with similar findings will there be, and how many more families have to suffer, before we see the changes we need?”
In order to allow the maternity workforce access to all the training that they need and deserve, the Government should provide:
- Dedicated and targeted funding for the direct costs of training, including staff backfill
- Investment in systems and infrastructure to allow training to take place. This is particularly important in light of the pandemic, as much training has moved to a virtual setting
- A solution to the workforce shortage that is plaguing maternity services
Sara Ledger, Head of Research and Development at Baby Lifeline said: “It has long been clear that investment in maternity training saves lives and prevents avoidable harm. Our previous report shows that the Government’s 2017/18 funding had this positive impact. But this new research very clearly shows we need a new commitment to arrest the decline we have seen since then, and to support maternity professionals to give better and safer care to mothers, birthing people, and their babies.
“The Government’s recent announcement of £3 million to prevent brain injuries in childbirth is welcome. However, the expectations of maternity services to improve have never been higher, and this report highlights that services are not being given the right infrastructure to support the work. Training is obstructed by staff shortages, IT systems that are not fit-for-purpose, and there is a universal lack of venues. These problems existed before the pandemic and have only become worse.”
Baby Lifeline’s report has identified essential areas where funding must be targeted, to improve maternity outcomes. They are to:
- Support the comprehensive roll out of current NHS maternity safety schemes
- Expand multi-specialist maternity training provision
- Enhance data collection on training outcomes
- Provide new equipment and resources to facilitate better training
Almost all maternity services (97%) identified barriers to providing training to the workforce. There was an increase in barriers identified overall from 2017/18, with venue availability and restrictions becoming more of an obstacle, and inadequate and insufficient IT systems inhibiting online attendance.
The report shows a decline since the funding injection of the last Maternity Safety Training Fund in 2017/18. Today’s call for additional funding comes as the charity urges the Government to enter the post Covid crisis era with a comprehensive commitment to long-term training and resource provision for the sector.
The research team sent Freedom of Information requests to 150 NHS maternity services across the UK. 124 UK maternity providers sent a response, which equates to 83% of the Trusts. 26 organisations provided no response.
To view the report, visit: https://www.babylifeline.org.uk/mind-the-gap-2021