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Mother receives apology from Barts Health NHS Trust after stillbirth of her first child

A mother in North London whose first child was stillborn has received compensation and an apology from Barts Health NHS Trust.

Posted on 10 January 2022

The woman, who we have called Mrs K, was admitted to the maternity unit for a planned induction at 40 weeks.

However, her son was delivered stillborn following failings in her care in which warning signs were ignored and a Caesarean section operation was delayed.

After induction was started, Mrs K developed pain and required analgesia. She made little progress but a plan was made to continue with the induction of labour.

Mrs K recalls that, at about 4pm on the day following induction, she noticed an unusual yellow stain on her maternity pad. She showed this to her midwife, who carried out an examination and confirmed that the baby had passed meconium (faeces) in the uterus. This is often a sign of fetal distress, however Mrs K was not assessed again for a number of hours.

In the evening, a further examination revealed thick meconium. CTG monitoring was commenced and was classified as normal, despite several danger signs being apparent which should have prompted an urgent transfer to the labour ward.

The transfer did not happen for a further three hours, when the CTG trace was reviewed and was again incorrectly classified as normal.

Mrs K asked if she could have a C-section, but this was refused and a number of further opportunities to spot signs of fetal distress went unrecognised over the next few hours.

The medical team finally agreed to a C-section after it was observed that the baby had suffered a long period of bradycardia (a low fetal heart rate).

It was now around 10 hours after Mrs K had first raised concerns about the progress of her labour and the signs of fetal distress.

Her son showed no signs of life upon delivery. Attempts were made to resuscitate him but he could not be revived. It was subsequently thought that the baby had suffered an infection in the uterus which eventually caused him to suffer from a lack of oxygen.

Mrs K and her husband both suffered greatly from the loss. Mrs K suffered from an adjustment disorder, with associated depression and anxiety, and required care and support from her husband, who provided this bravely despite suffering psychological difficulties of his own.

An internal investigation carried out by the Trust recognised several errors in the care that was provided and acknowledged that delivery by C-section should have taken place hours earlier than it did. However, it was denied that this delay caused the baby’s death.

Mrs K and her husband instructed Sarah Campbell and Michael Roberts in Leigh Day’s clinical negligence department to investigate their case. Medical records and pathology samples were obtained along with reports from independent medicolegal experts who, after considering the evidence, supported Mrs K’s case against the Trust.

The Trust continued to deny liability for the stillbirth, so court proceedings were issued. Shortly after proceedings were served, the Trust made an offer to settle the case. This offer was rejected, but further negotiations followed and the parties came to an agreement.

Following the settlement, Barts Health NHS Trust provided a letter to Mrs K, offering their sincere apologies for the management of her perinatal care. The Trust provided assurances that learning had taken place to prevent such an event from occurring in future.

Michael Roberts, who represented Mrs K and her husband, said:

“I would like to pay tribute to the courage shown by our client and her husband during the most testing of times. I sincerely hope that, thanks to their determination in the face of unimaginable tragedy, genuine lessons have been learnt, and improvements made at the Trust, that will prevent anyone else from having to endure what they suffered.”

Leigh Day worked with barrister Paul Reynolds of 1 Crown Office Row chambers.

Michael Roberts
Amputation Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Inquests Spinal injury

Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts is a senior associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

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