A top maternity doctor has warned that mothers receiving care from the NHS get a substandard level of service if they give birth at night.
Inexperienced doctors are working overnight in labour wards and they do not have the skills necessary to ensure that babies are delivered safely, according to Dr Tony Falconer. In some cases, women are given unnecessary caesarean sections and some babies suffer devastating harm during their birth.
Falconer pointed out that there are a disproportionate number of alleged medical negligence claims made against the NHS involving babies born overnight.
The NHS pays out around £300 million a year in medical negligence compensation to mothers and babies who have suffered from lack of proper care during birth, and individual settlements can be as high as £6 million. Falconer would like to see this money used to hire between 500 and 1,000 senior doctors, who would work around the clock to improve the quality and safety of maternity care.
Trainee obstetricians are much less experienced than their qualified counterparts and not only can they lack the technical skills to use forceps, they can also be slow to spot complications. The NHS is staffed with fully qualified staff between 9 and 5 but out of hours the standard of care can be inferior and medical negligence can occur.
Last year the Royal Society of Medicine revealed that single women and those in ethnic minorities do not receive the same standard of maternity care as those who are married or have a partner.
Medical negligence solicitors can help mothers who have suffered a poor standard of care during birth but compensation cannot make up for the distress and long-term effects of having a child born with disabilities.
The government should review the problem and ensure our hospitals are staffed with fully qualified staff 24 hours a day.