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BIRTH Training Initiative

The History

An obstetrician whose evidence based approach was ahead of its time

The Late Professor Richard Johanson’s contribution to the safe care of women and their babies during pregnancy and childbirth was exceptional.

The Baby Lifeline BIRTH Series (Bringing Interactive Responsive Training to Hospitals) was produced in response to the CESDI reports and launched in 2000 led by the Late Richard Johanson and his team at North Staffordshire NHS.

Early in his career he became hooked by the challenges of caring for women in both normal and complicated childbirth. He progressed from senior house officer in obstetrics to registrar, research fellow, senior registrar, lecturer, and senior lecturer/consultant all in North Staffordshire Hospital. Along the way he spent time in Kwazulu, Kathmandu (where he undertook his work for his Cambridge MD) and in Cape Town, where he did a great deal of further valuable research. He was promoted to professor at Keele University in 2001 in recognition of his unquestionable academic contribution to the research of women in pregnancy and childbirth.

He predicted, by some 10 years, that research would ultimately return to being more clinically relevant—that the identification of a clinical problem and analysis of the research literature would lead to the establishment of local and then multicentre clinical trials. He then used that evidence to inform and educate students and specialists through nationally acclaimed obstetric skills and clinical scenario courses, innovative educational videos, and local and national Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines. We now take his approach—one of intertwined research, teaching, audit and clinical practice—for granted in clinical governance. But he developed this approach well before the government was even remotely aware of such a philosophy.



The BIRTH Series was an innovative educational series of nine videos/CD-ROMs and DVDs produced by Baby Lifeline and led by Richard. They provided a direct and practical response to the CESDI (Confidential Enquiries into Deaths in Infancy), and have been distributed worldwide.

Richard was a keen mountaineer, skier, walker, all round sportsman, and a talented player of the Scottish pipes. As a medical student he busked his way around Europe in full Scottish attire playing the bagpipes.

He left a wife, Charlotte (also expert clinician); and three children.



The BIRTH 2 UK Maternity Training Initiative was launched in 2014 as Baby Lifeline’s direct and practical response to the NHS Litigation Authority’s report on ‘Ten Years of Maternity Claims’ (2012). Key themes to improve safety emerging from the report – which recognised the benefit of multi-disciplinary training – formed the basis of the training that has been provided.

Budget restrictions in the NHS have led to a reduced investment in training generally and in particular for external training where the interaction between those from different professions and different organisations is beneficial to maintaining standards of care.

Leading professionals form an extensive faculty to provide valuable training that is delivered in 9 regions across the UK; enabling doctors, midwives, nurses and others to come together to continue their professional development. Our training looks at ways to promote safety through best clinical practice and communication to ensure the healthiest outcome possible from pregnancy and birth.

“Learning from claims and reducing harm is at the heart of the new Safety and Learning Service of the NHS LA. The training provided by Baby Lifeline supports our focus to reduce harm associated with maternity care, in particular to support the NHS in monitoring fetal heart rate and prevention of the deteriorating baby.

– The NHS Litigation Authority