Belfast Telegraph

Parents' anguish left to fester

Editor's Viewpoint

A consistent feature of medical negligence cases is the length of time it takes to determine culpability and to deliver some form of justice to the injured parties or their families. On some occasions there can be mitigating factors as it may take several years for the effects of the negligence to fully manifest themselves.

However, in the case of a midwife whose catastrophic negligence led to the deaths of two babies - one of whom could have been delivered as a healthy child if standard appropriate care had been given - it is difficult to know why it has taken almost 10 years for her to be struck off.

This delay has added to the heartbreak of the parents, who have had to constantly relive the nightmare of losing their newborn babies and wonder exactly what went wrong.

They may also wonder, as does the public, why the midwife in question was not prosecuted, although she is now no longer allowed to practise as a midwife.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is quite right to say that the public expects midwives to deliver an appropriate standard of care to all expectant mothers and that this case had undermined public confidence in the profession.

The council has taken the proper steps to help restore public faith but there still remains a perception that it is only occasionally that anyone is brought to book or loses their jobs when something goes wrong in the health service.

Usually the buck seems to stop with the practitioner who makes the mistake, but those in management roles rarely appear to suffer sanctions if the failings in the service are more systemic.

While in no way trying to excuse the actions of the midwife in this case, there is no doubt that those working in maternity departments - like many other areas of the health service - are under enormous pressures to ensure a swift throughput of patients unless there are obvious complications.

That is a potentially dangerous strain under which to work day in and day out.

While accepting that in a service as complex as health errors will inevitably occur, hospitals, trusts, regulatory bodies and the Department of Health should give greater priority to ensuring culpability is accepted and redress given. Taking 10 years is merely keeping a grievous wound festering.

Belfast Telegraph


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