It would be a grave error to assume that an increase in reported maternity incident numbers - widely covered in the media last week - is a result of increasing error rates in maternity services.

When the National Patient Safety Agency's Reporting and Learning system went live in 2003 there was only an embryonic culture of reporting by frontline NHS staff. There were significant concerns from clinical staff that if they reported an incident it would have a serious impact on their careers.

The fact that the database now contains 2.5 million incidents shows the initial fears are being overcome. The increase in reported incident numbers simply reflects more people reporting as more trusts connect to the system.

Dr Kevin Cleary, medical director, National Patient Safety Agency