It is estimated that more than one out of every four babies born in England are delivered by Caesarean section. A Caesarean section is where a baby is delivered through an incision made into the mother’s abdomen and womb.

Maternity units across England were previously encouraged to try and keep the rate of Caesarean sections to about 20% of all births, and the performance of maternity units was measured on the amount of Caesarean sections that were carried out. However, measures are being taken to improve care for mothers and babies, and this has resulted in the limit on Caesarean sections being lifted.

Concerns were raised that these targets led to many mothers pursuing a natural birth in circumstances where a Caesarean may have been more appropriate, which could put both mother and baby at risk of harm.

This advice comes following the Health and Social Care Committee Report in 2021, which stated that 1,000 more babies would survive each year, if England’s maternity services were safer. The Report stated that maternity units were improving, but the rate of newborn deaths still remained too high.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust is currently being investigated for almost 2,000 incidents within their maternity units between 2010 and 2018. The Trust’s natural birth rate was the highest in England, for 5 out of the 8 year period, which raises the question of whether there were instances where a Caesarean section would have been a safer option for the mother and baby.

The Report into the poor maternity care at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust is expected to be published next month and will provide more details into the causes of these incidents as well as any measures that should be taken to avoid any similar events in the future.

Maternity staff are being encouraged to look at each case on an individual basis and follow the NICE Guidelines, which allows women to choose a planned Caesarean section, even if not for medical reasons. Women should be given the full advice of risks and benefits of the different types of deliveries, to enable them to make an informed decision about how they choose to give birth. The decision should be made in line with the best interests of the mother, and not due to an arbitrary target for Caesarean rates.

Dr Jo Mountfield, Consultant Obstetrician and Vice-President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said, in response to announcement, “we welcome this clarification from NHS England. These targets are not appropriate in individual circumstances. Both vaginal and caesarean births carry certain benefits and risks, which should be discussed with women as they choose how they wish to give birth. Women giving birth should feel supported and their choices should be respected. The RCOG does not support one method of birth over another.”

How can we help?

If you are concerned about the care that you received at a maternity unit, we may be able to help you. Please get in touch to discuss the circumstances surrounding your care with a member of our specialist clinical negligence team.

It is important to recognise that there is a time limit that applies to clinical negligence claims, which is known as the “limitation” period. Clinical negligence claims must either be settled for compensation, or court proceedings be issued, within three years of the date of alleged negligence, or the date of knowledge of such negligence.

However, in cases involving children with brain damage or serious injuries, the time limit will be three years from the date of their 18th birthday.

There are occasions where the limitation period may be extended. Please get in touch to discuss your concerns, if you feel that this may apply to you. Contact 01522 561020 or email for a free consultation. 

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