Mistakes by medical staff caring for pregnant women are costing the NHS billions in compensation
Errors made by medical staff when caring for pregnant women have cost the NHS £3.1 billion over the last 10 years, figures show.
An NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA) report shows that between 2000 and 2010, the organisation dealt with 5,078 claims which have resulted in payouts totalling £3.1 billion.
Junior doctors and inexperienced midwives are "often" involved in maternity care cases which result in legal action, according to the NHS LA, which manages legal claims made against the NHS in England.
A third of the money that was paid out, or is yet to be paid, is attributable to cases which resulted in the baby having cerebral palsy. There were 542 claims for cerebral palsy, with a combined payout of £1.3 billion, data shows.
Misinterpretation or the poor management of the results of cardiotocograph (CTG) readings - which monitor a baby's heart rate and a mother's contractions while the baby is in the uterus - resulted in payments totalling £466 million.
The highest number of claims were for mismanaged labour, with 715 claimants receiving a total of £424 million. Botched C sections accounted for the second highest number of claims - with 647 families receiving a total of £216 million.
NHS LA chief executive Catherine Dixon said: "Having a baby while under the care of NHS doctors and midwives remains very safe. Out of 5.5 million births in England during the decade covered by the report, about one in a thousand result in a legal claim against the NHS.
"However, because maternity claims are so serious as they involve harm to mothers and their babies, it's vital that we learn and share lessons from them so that professionals can improve their clinical practice in the future and prevent harm. That is what our report aims to do."
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists vice president David Richmond added: "This report has defined why problems occur and provides us with valuable information so that maternity services can put in place robust monitoring and risk identification systems to prevent them from recurring."
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "The biggest issue behind these claims is that most of the lessons to be learned from them are not new. It is tragic that the same problems reoccur in our maternity services year on year. The big question we all have to ask ourselves is why is it so difficult for well-meaning professionals to put learning into practice?"