• Inspections into babies deprived of oxygen but with no apparent brain injuries suspended
  • National HSIB reports also paused
  • But HSIB says it is “business as usual” for reporting serious maternity cases

Routine investigations into maternity incidents involving babies treated for oxygen deprivation at birth, but with no apparent brain injuries, have been suspended.

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, which investigates patient safety concerns, said it is changing its approach to maternity and national investigations to “minimise the impact it has on trusts” during the covid-19 pandemic.

From 6 April, HSIB will no longer investigate “maternity events” involving “cooled” babies, where there is also no neurological injury confirmed following therapy.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, “cooling” involves lowering the baby’s body temperature soon after birth and for a few days afterwards in the hope it will slow down the processes that cause brain damage.

HSIB also said it would stop publishing national reports until further notice, but would “escalate accordingly” if alerted to any serious patient safety concerns.

Trusts have also been asked to continue referring details of all serious maternity cases to HSIB, which said it wanted trusts to “in effect [carry] on business as usual”.

The patient safety watchdog said it would continue to “accept and encourage” referrals regarding patient safety, including concerns about covid-19.

However, it said its response to referrals would be “slower than usual due to the impact of the current pandemic”. HSIB added it would aim to respond to each referral within four weeks.

Keith Conradi, HSIB chief investigator, said: “We understand this will impact the services we can provide for some time, but given the urgency and scale of this public health emergency it is essential for us to help front-line colleagues care for the people that need it most.

“HSIB have also developed a rapid response team which is on standby to assist with any healthcare safety issues which arise during the coronavirus outbreak, and where our expertise could bring a positive patient safety outcome.”

The Care Quality Commission has also suspended its routine inspections because of the covid-19 pandemic and has considered monitoring troubled trusts remotely.