A safer, revised national maternity care action plan was announced by the Health Secretary this week, however, it has been cautiously welcomed by Action against Medical Accidents.

A consultation is to be held on a new rapid resolution and redress scheme which would investigate and learn lessons from more than 500 cases a year. Families would be able to have access to financial support without having to enter a formal legal process, however, this option is still available. If successful, the compensation system would offer support and regular payments. The support would consist of counselling, case management and legal advice.

AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh said:

“It is imperative that safety is improved to prevent these dreadful mistakes happening so often, so we welcome the added impetus to that…However, this also comes with a big health warning. The devil will be in the detail of these proposals. It is essential that any scheme compensates people fairly according to their individual needs rather than short changing them in return for a ‘quick’ settlement…We do not want people to feel pressurised into accepting something less than they need and deserve just to save the NHS money.”

Resources will be provided to Trusts to improve approaches to maternity safety including an £8m fund for maternity safety training with £40,000 available to each English NHS Trust. The plan further includes a £250,000 maternity safety innovation fund, the publication of new local maternity ratings, a national maternal and neonatal health quality improvement programme for Trusts to share best practice and the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, to be up and running from April 2017.

Further details on the proposed reform and compensation scheme are awaited from the Health Secretary. While focus on swift redress is welcomed, prevention is always better than a cure.