HSIB report flags safety concerns around 999 call handling for pregnant women

on 18 February 2022 RCM Midwives Pregnancy Women

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is calling for better training for 999 call handlers, following a report which found they were giving potentially unsafe advice to pregnant women waiting for an ambulance.

The report from the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch said there may be safety risks in advice given to some women. Of particular concern was advice about the best position to lie-in to avoid affecting blood flow to the placenta, and around whether to clamp the baby’s umbilical cord if the baby is born before the ambulance arrived. The report recommends developing new protocols and guidelines for call handlers to ensure safer and consistent advice.

Dr Mary Ross-Davie, Director for Professional Midwifery at the RCM, said: “Pregnant women who call 999 are likely to be already worried about their health and that of their baby. They rightly need to be able to trust the advice given to them by 999 call handlers or other healthcare professionals. Ambulance services are working to address the issues highlighted in this report. This includes new roles for midwives within them to improve the training, guidance, and services they provide for pregnant women and that is welcome. There is a hole in the system, and it is being fixed, but we do need to pick up the pace and tackle this as a matter of urgency.”