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The Safety of Britain’s Maternity Units – How safe is it to have a baby in the UK?

A midwife accused of a catalogue of failures which contributed to the deaths of two babies at Furness General Hospital, part of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, was struck off last week.

The probe into Furness General Hospital in Cumbria uncovered NHS failures at every level between 2004 and 2013, which resulted in the deaths of several mothers and newborn babies. The death of Joshua Titcombe and a suppressed report by Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust raised concern about Furness General Hospital in 2011 when investigations began.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel has now formally released their findings to the public in relation to the conduct of Mrs Marie Ratcliffe. Mrs Ratcliffe was employed as a midwife at Furness General Hospital’s disgraced maternity unit, where 11 babies have been judged to have died unnecessarily. The former midwife accepted 68 charges relating to 14 patients.

Mr Gary Leong, chair of the NMC panel, commented that Mrs Radcliffe’s “conduct was a very significant departure from standards expected of a midwife.”

Mrs Ratcliffe was present at the births of both Elleanor Bennett, who died aged just a day old in 2004, and Alex Davey-Brady, who was stillborn in 2008. Mr Leong revealed that “her contribution to the deaths of the babies amounts to serious misconduct.”

In a summary, the NMC said: “The tragic events at the Trust led to two independent reports and a significant review of midwifery regulation, and particularly the role of midwifery supervision. We are now seeking the urgent change to our legislation to enable us to deal with cases like this more quickly and to remove supervision from our remit and to give us direct control of regulatory decisions affecting midwives.”

In Britain there are 4 still born/neo-natal deaths in every 2000 births. The Royal College of midwives recommends that all new mothers should have one-to-one care with a midwife, in reality this is not always possible.

If you have been affected by medical negligence, and you would like expert advice, contact the Hampson Hughes Solicitors Medical Negligence Team today on 0151 242 1025 or email

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