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Compensation for mother after her baby is stillborn following delay in delivery

A woman from Burnley has received an apology from a hospital trust, and been awarded compensation, after her baby son was stillborn at Burnley Hospital.

Posted on 06 October 2017

The woman, known as Mrs A, was represented by Nicola Wainwright a specialist in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day.

During her pregnancy Mrs A was suspected to have suffered premature rupture of her membranes and received antibiotics on two occasions in case of infection.

On 22 May 2014 Mrs A felt unwell and experienced a large loss of fluid. She attended Burnley Hospital that morning but was left on the antenatal ward, where the baby’s heart rate was monitored.

It wasn’t until 21.30 that the midwife, who had just come on shift, noticed that the baby's heart rate was abnormal. An hour and a half later Mrs A was transferred to the birth suite.

At 23.18, and over the following 45 minutes, the midwife reported struggling to pick up the baby's heart rate. A doctor was called but did not attend.

Eventually the consultant was called in from home and immediately took Mrs A for an emergency caesarean section. Her son was delivered 20 minutes later but was sadly stillborn.

Mrs A went on to develop maternal sepsis and a bacterial infection was identified as the cause of the baby's death.

Having obtained the advice of an independent obstetrician the team at Leigh Day alleged on Mrs A’s behalf that hospital staff had been negligent in failing to watch carefully for signs of infection, failing to act quickly enough on the abnormalities in the baby's heart rate and failing to deliver the baby earlier by way of caesarean section.

Her lawyers alleged that had the baby been delivered earlier, he would have been born alive.

Having considered the case Leigh Day put to them, the hospital trust admitted negligence and said they would like to: “…apologise unreservedly for the lapse in standards and for the loss which this caused".

Mrs A was left with psychological injuries as a result of the loss of her baby son and has been unable to return to work.

Mrs A was very keen that other parents did not have to go through what she had. The hospital had put an action plan of changes in place after the death and Leigh Day obtained confirmation that those had been implemented.

Mrs A was also pleased to hear that the hospital had appointed a bereavement midwife and that one part of this role is to create better memories for mothers who have suffered a stillbirth, including providing appropriate photographs for bereaved mothers.

Mrs A said:

"My baby was shown to me with his face covered and that image will stay with me forever.  I really wish I had had the opportunity to have photographs of my son taken, as then that is the image of him I could treasure instead of one that upsets me still now."

Nicola Wainwright, a partner in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day, said:

“I was pleased that we were able to bring Mrs A’s case to a relatively swift conclusion, helped by the willingness of the trust to make an early admission of liability, saving legal costs and further distress to our client.

“The trust also provided an apology and has reassured Mrs A that things have changed since her baby's death. I certainly hope that is true as whilst sadly for her and her husband it is too late to save their child and spare them their suffering, both they and we are keen to do anything that we can to avoid the same happening to someone else."