Thousands of mothers and babies in England were harmed by potential lapses in maternity care in the past two years, the BBC has learned. More than 276,000 incidents were logged by worried hospital staff between April 2015 and March 2017 – the equivalent of one mistake for every five births. Most were minor or near misses, but almost a quarter of the incidents led to the mother or baby being harmed – and in 288 cases there was a death. Ministers said safety must be improved. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC it was his “top priority”. “Mistakes in maternity care can lead to heart-breaking tragedies for mothers and babies.” But he said it was encouraging hospitals were being honest as that would help prevent repeat problems. However, childbirth charity NCT said the figures suggested maternity care was “in crisis”. The incidents have been flagged up under a voluntary reporting scheme run by the regulator NHS Improvement that staff are encouraged to take part in if they have concerns about care. The potential lapses logged include everything from short delays getting medication or records not being completed properly to babies being deprived of oxygen and life-threatening complications not being diagnosed.