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Bereaved parents settle medical negligence claim against St Peter's Hospital following stillbirth

Parents obtain apology, assurances and compensation following failures in care that led to the tragic stillbirth of their baby daughter

Posted on 19 April 2017

A woman known only as R has received compensation following the stillbirth of her baby daughter at St Peter’s hospital in Chertsey Surrey in July 2013. 

R’s first pregnancy was uneventful until at 39 week’s gestation she and her husband were sent home from St Peter's following rupture of her membranes and told to come back the following day for induction of labour.    

When R returned to the labour ward the following day at midday as planned she was found to have a temperature of 38.9°C and a fast heart rate. CTG monitoring of the baby’s heart was described as suspicious but R was not reviewed by a doctor until 20.55.

The doctor prescribed  R IV antibiotics due to her high temperature and Syntocinon to speed up her labour but the anti-biotics were not given until 21.25 and the Syntocinon was not started until 02.10 (a delay of 4 hours and 10 minutes).

After the Syntocinon was given the CTG trace revealed the baby's heart rate to be more abnormal but it was not until 04.10 the doctor made the decision to deliver R's baby by caesarean.

Sadly, R’s baby was born in a poor condition; without a heartbeat, floppy, pale with significant meconium. The neonatal team could not resuscitate her and her death was classified as a stillbirth.

R and her husband instructed medical negligence solicitors at Leigh Day, Nicola Wainwright and Suleikha Ali, to investigate their claim.

Expert evidence was obtained from an Obstetrician who advised that failures in R’s care including not admitting her for an induction of labour until 32 hours after her waters had broken, failing to identify and appropriately treat an infection and failing to intervene to deliver the baby sooner despite drops in the fetal heart rate was negligent. The independent expert expressed the view that but for these failures R’s baby daughter would have survived.

Given the expert’s criticisms, Leigh Day sent Ashford and St Peter’s Trust a formal Letter of Claim. The Trust made some admissions but did not admit full liability.

This meant that the bereaved parents  had to begin  Court Proceedings after which the hospital admitted the care provided was negligent and that negligence caused R's baby's death.

R and her husband wanted assurances from the Trust that lessons had been learnt to try to ensure that no other parents had to go through what they did.

During negotiations to try to settle the case Leigh Day were able to obtain such assurances and an apology, which R and her family wanted.

As well as paying compensation the Trust's Chief Executive wrote to the family to say:

“The care provided to you fell below the high standards you quite rightly expected with tragic consequences…we sincerely and wholeheartedly apologise to you and your family for that failure."

Suleikha Ali, Solicitor in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day said:

“R and her husband instructed Leigh Day to try to obtain an explanation for their daughter’s death and an apology and assurances that no other family would have to go through what they did. Given how important an apology was to them we were pleased to able to obtain that for them. We hope that the Trust really have learned lessons from this tragic case".

Nicola Wainwright, Partner in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day added:

“R and her family can never be truly 'compensated' for the loss they suffered - it is just not possible- but the need for justice for bereaved families should not be underestimated. This claim, of the utmost importance but of low value in monetary terms,  is exactly the type of case that it will be hard, if not impossible,  to fight if the government's intended reforms introducing fixed costs in clinical negligence claims are brought in. That would not be justice for other bereaved families and lessons would not be learned"

R, Client said:

"We appreciated the professionalism of Nicola and Suleikha as they guided us through this traumatic process in a very sympathetic and supportive manner, helping us to receive the apology and assurances that we sought when we first began the process"