The Black Maternity Scandal – dispatches uncovers shocking truths of mismanagement of pregnancy and birth

Insights / / Bristol

Why do so many more Black women in the UK die in pregnancy and childbirth? The statistics are shocking; a 2019 study by MBRRACE- UK (Mothers and Babies Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK) found that Black women were five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.  

In their latest epsiode, Channel 4’s Dispatches set out to investigate the stories of some of the women and their families and to highlight failings in their care. It is not an easy watch, but the programme is effective and the women’s message was clear: Black women are not listened to and their pain is ignored. You can watch the programme here.

The Medical Negligence team at Ince Metcalfes is experienced in dealing with claims arising from mismanagement of pregnancy and birth. When we discuss the facts of each case with the client and their partner, they often tell us they were not heard. In conference with expert witnesses in midwifery and obstetrics, we hear them emphasise the fundamental responsibility of staff to pay attention to what they are being told. If a pregnant woman feels something is wrong because her baby is not moving, or a labouring woman says she has a sudden, new and unbearable pain, this is important information and needs to be taken seriously. In some of the cases, we deal with staff who do not respond as they should, with tragic consequences.

This programme and these statistics show us the human cost of failing to prevent harm, and that this cost is falling disproportionately on BAME women. Tackling it will be hard, particularly against a background of a severe shortage of midwives, and fears that more will leave the profession after the Covid-19 pandemic. NHS bodies, professional organisations and the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) have all been calling for action, and this TV programme is a welcome addition to these voices.

If you have been affected by any of the scenarios described above, we are here to help you. For more information and advice, please get in touch.