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Bereaved parents 5-year wait for apology from Colchester hospital

A couple from Essex who waited nearly five years for an apology from the hospital in which their child died shortly after birth, have spoken out to prevent others from suffering what they say has been years of heartbreak.

James and Michelle Martin-Whymark with Summer, who died the following day

4 April 2017

Summer Martin-Whymark was born in June 2012 but survived only one day after failures in the management of her delivery at the Colchester General Hospital.

Michelle Martin-Whymark had enjoyed an uneventful pregnancy until approximately 40 weeks’ gestation. On 14 June 2012 Summer was identified as breech presentation and a caesarean section was arranged for 19 June 2012. However, Summer turned and the planned caesarean section was cancelled.

Mrs Martin-Whymark asked to have an induction of labour and attended the Hospital on the morning of 22 June 2012. Due to various delays she wasn’t induced until the evening of 22 June 2012.

Unfortunately, Mrs Martin-Whymark was not monitored properly by way of a CTG during her labour. When continuous CTG was finally commenced at 03.38 on 23 June 2012 expert evidence indicated that Summer’s heart rate was pathological and immediate delivery was mandatory.

Summer was delivered by emergency caesarean section at 04.38. Sadly, she suffered irreparable brain damage and died.

Solicitors acting on behalf of the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, the Trust responsible for the Colchester General Hospital admitted by letter in November 2014 that had the Trust monitored Mrs Martin-Whymark’s labour appropriately, Summer would have been delivered earlier and would have survived.

The Inquest into Summer’s death began on 28 November 2014 and was adjourned and concluded on 6 January 2015, two years and six months after the death of Summer.

The Trust did not accept responsibility for Summer’s death until three days before the family were due to attend the Inquest, two years and six months after the death of Summer.

This drawn out and protracted process caused considerable distress to Mrs Martin-Whymark and her husband James.

Following the admission of liability, no formal apology was offered. Mr and Mrs Martin-Whymark requested an apology in respect of the errors made in Mrs Martin-Whymark’s labour and the delivery of Summer. Despite making such a request, a letter of apology was not received until November 2016, some months later.

That letter of apology did not reflect the admissions made by the Trust in November 2014. A revised letter of apology was not provided until February 2017.

Emmalene Bushnell was assisted by solicitor Kriya Amin in the clinical negligence team at Leigh Day in representing Mr and Mrs Martin-Whymark. Emmalene said:

“The sad death of Summer Martin-Whymark followed failures by Colchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in respect of the management of Mrs Martin-Whymark’s labour and the delivery of Summer.

“Mr and Mrs Martin-Whymark initially approached us to obtain answers and address concerns they had about their daughter’s death and to represent them at the Inquest into her death.

“Unfortunately, an admission of liability, was not received until November 2014, shortly before the inquest started and a letter of apology, received two years later.

“The delay in acknowledging and apologising for the failures that led to Summers death has only compounded Mr and Mrs-Martin-Whymark’s grief.

“I hope that lessons can be learnt from this tragic case and that where failings are identified, they are acknowledged early on and apologies made.”

Michelle Martin-Whymark said: “The death of Summer has had a dramatic effect on our family life. No parent should have to endure the pain and suffering of the loss of a child.

"Our eldest daughter Hollie, who is now 10, had to deal with the loss of her little sister. She couldn't fully understand what had happened and why we came home from hospital with no baby. She now has a fear of hospitals and is very protective over Lottie, our youngest daughter who is now 3.

"We both feel guilty for being happy and enjoying ourselves, it feels wrong, but we have to get on with our lives for the sake of our two daughters. To this day, almost 5 years on, I still think about Summer every minute of everyday. I ask myself what she would have looked like now, what her voice would have sounded like, her likes, her dislikes, all those things that you think about someone when you don't have them."

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