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Mother receives compensation from NHS Trust after son is stillborn

A 24 year old woman, whose child was stillborn, has received compensation from an NHS trust following a report that found mistakes were made in her treatment during pregnancy, with an emergency caesarean section undertaken too late to save her child.

Posted on 22 November 2019

During the course of her pregnancy Claire* was admitted to the Maternity Day Unit (MDU) at a Hospital in the south of England on three separate occasions with urinary tract infections. She was identified as being at risk as her baby had a small gestational age (SGA) placing her in the high risk category for fetal growth restriction.

Fetal growth restriction, or intrauterine growth restriction is a condition where an unborn baby is smaller than it should be and is not growing at a normal rate inside the womb. This delayed growth puts the baby at risk of certain health problems during pregnancy, delivery, and after birth.

From 29 weeks, Claire was admitted, released home and re-admitted to the MDU as she suffered numerous symptoms including pre-eclampsia, which is a combination of high blood pressure (hypertension) and protein in a mother’s urine (proteinuria).

At 31 weeks gestation Claire went into hospital with worsening pre-eclampsia and an abnormal fetal heart trace measured using a continuous cardiotocography (CTG) which electronically monitors babies' heartbeats and wellbeing during labour. 

According to a root cause analysis (RCA) report conducted by the hospital, following the birth, despite these symptoms the medical team did not decide to undertake an emergency caesarean section on Claire until mid-afternoon, and her son was born with no signs of life.  

The RCA concluded that there had been numerous failings in Claire’s care, specifically in relation to the management of her pre-eclampsia. However, despite the failings identified, the hospital trust did not admit any liability for the stillbirth.

Claire was represented in her claim by specialist medical negligence partner, Emmalene Bushnell and solicitor, Kriya Amin from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day.

A Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist provided expert evidence and a formal letter of claim was sent to the trust outlining various failures in relation to the Claire’s care during her pregnancy, labour and delivery of her son.

Within their letter of response the hospital trust admitted a number of failures including that an unnecessary delay in performing a caesarean section led to the stillbirth of Claire’s son.

As a result of the highly traumatic series of events that led to and included the death of her baby, Claire suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. She also suffered postnatal depression following the birth of her third child. 

Whilst the trust had confirmed that they would provide a letter of apology to Claire in respect of the care she received, the trust has not yet sent a letter of apology, over one year since they received the letter of response and eight months since Claire’s claim settled. 

Claire said:

“I am extremely grateful for all Emmalene and Kriya have done in getting this outcome for me, in particular in getting the trust to admit a number of failings in my care. Nothing can ever change the fact that I lost my child, but I at least now have some answers about what went wrong and I hope the Trust learns from this to ensure no one else is subjected to the same mistakes.”

Emmalene Bushnell, partner in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day said:

“There were numerous failings in Claire’s case which should never have happened. Whilst we are pleased that the trust finally admitted to a number of the failings that occurred, we are disappointed that despite reassurances that an apology would be forthcoming, it has not yet been received. We hope that the trust has taken action to put measures in place to improve the care provided for mothers with pre-eclampsia.”

*not her real name