The government has launched a public consultation for its proposed rapid resolution and redress (RRR) scheme – a voluntary compensation system for families affected by severe avoidable birth injury

The 12-week consultation, running until the 26 May, is encouraging widespread input on the planned scheme, which the government argues would reduce the number of babies lost or severely injured during birth and speed up compensation for families when serious harm has occurred. 

While many families in the UK have successful, healthy births, stillbirth rates in the UK rate among the highest in Western Europe. The NHS Litigation Authority currently settles around 100 multi-million pound maternity cases a year. 

Under the proposed new scheme, parents could join a voluntary rapid redress scheme. Their claim would be assessed by an investigator independent from the NHS trust. A panel of experts would then make a final decision and arrange payment, with around 500 cases a year being investigated. The government states its hope that the process would also encourage a learning culture within the NHS, along the lines of a similar project in Sweden. 

“Any attempt to ease the suffering of families affected by a serious birth injury or death, and to improve maternity safety in the UK, is in theory something we should welcome wholeheartedly,” said Linda Millband, national practice lead of Thompsons’ clinical negligence team.   

“Having seen first-hand the impact of serious birth injuries on families, and the additional stress and upset long, drawn-out cases cause them, rapid resolution for families can only be a good thing. And it’s great to see this issue firmly on the agenda. However we need to be sure that the investigation process is impartial and that in opting for a speedy resolution parents are able still fully compensated. 

“Unfortunately, we know hospitals are increasingly overstretched and staff are being pushed to breaking point. While that continues to be the case, it is inevitable that mistakes will happen. This scheme does not appear to account for that. 

“We need to ensure that in the process of saving the NHS money we are not providing a disservice to those who rely on it.” 

Thompsons Solicitors is currently developing its response to the government’s proposals, which will be published online once complete.