Protecting human rights in childbirth

Update: Birthrights and Leigh Day legal challenge calling for urgent release of the MBRRACE report

Last week, Birthrights challenged NHS England’s decision not to publish the annual maternity care MBRRACE report until after the election. We received a response from NHS England’s lawyers stating they would reply substantively to our concerns within 14 days (by 10 December) and intend to publish the report on 13 December.

Our solicitors, Leigh Day, responded on Monday 2 December to express our disappointment that NHS England has chosen not to respond with more urgency to our concerns, not least given the widespread support for our legal action from the maternity community. One midwife wrote to us to express support for the urgent need to publish the data and recommendations, to improve standards and save lives:

“There was a maternal death in our hospital over the weekend. I’m not in any way suggesting that earlier publication of the report could or would have changed that outcome, but it was a terribly sad and timely reminder that there is a very real reason why we need to collect and share this kind of data. Times like these remind us that midwifery isn’t all handholding and smiles – there are lives at stake and we must do everything we can to protect them, well away and apart from the sphere of party politics.”

We also stated that we would not pursue judicial review further if we received a guarantee that the report will be published on 13 December at the latest. We are concerned that it could be further delayed in the aftermath of an election while a new government is being formed, with a backlog of other reports subject to ‘purdah’ rules and in the run up to the Christmas period. You can read our letter here.

We will update again as soon as we have a further response from NHS England.

Birthrights Chief Executive, Amy Gibbs, said:

“We would like to thank everyone who has contacted us publicly and privately about this legal action – we’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of public and professional support, which demonstrates the urgent need to share the report and prevent future deaths, particularly among Black and Asian women who are more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth. We maintain the pre-election ‘purdah’ rules should not have been applied to the MBRRACE report. This is about saving lives, not party politics.”

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