Hospital Admits Maternity Delays Led To Death Of Couple’s Baby Boy

"Lessons Had Clearly Not Been Learned" Says Medical Law Expert After Trust Admits To Previous Failings

14.02.2011

A Worcestershire couple has received an out of court compensation settlement following hospital failures which led to the death of their baby son.

Katie and Robert Page, from Droitwich, suffered every parent’s worst nightmare when baby Harry was delivered stillborn on 9th October 2009.

Despite being identified as a 'high risk pregnancy', being ten days overdue and contacting the hospital on numerous occasions complaining of a reduction in her baby’s movements, Katie Page's induction of labour was postponed for more than two days because the hospital was unable to cope with its workload.

Mrs Page became so desperate that her husband finally drove her to the antenatal department at Worcester Royal Hospital at around 7pm on 8th October 2009 and demanded to be admitted. Even then, it took almost three hours to admit her to the labour ward and more than four hours before a midwife attempted to even check her baby's heart. Just before midnight a doctor was called and ultrasound scans confirmed that Katie's baby had died in the womb.

Following an earlier admission of liability, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has now paid out an undisclosed five figure compensation settlement.

Now a medical negligence expert is calling for a wide scale review into the state of maternity services at the Trust after revealing this is one of several similar cases he has handled involving poor maternity care.

Guy Forster from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who represents Mr & Mrs Page commented: "To lose a baby is upsetting enough but to discover that was it not for entirely avoidable, basic errors Harry would have survived has been very difficult for Katie and Robert to cope with.  Perhaps more worrying still is that there were not only errors by individuals but deep-rooted system failures including organisational problems and staffing issues.

"Whilst the Trust appears to have taken this incident seriously, I am particularly concerned that the same basic errors in maternity care appear to be repeated time after time here at this particular Trust. I have represented several families who have suffered the unimaginable heartbreak of either a stillbirth or having their baby born with catastrophic permanent injuries and the common link these cases share is a delay in receiving basic and appropriate obstetric care.

"Following previous legal action, we have urged the Trust to learn lessons and take urgent action to avoid further tragedies in the future. Tragically, it would appear that no such lessons have been learned."

Mrs Page comments: "It's been so difficult for Robert and I to rebuild our lives and, although we are now trying to move forward with the recent birth of our daughter. I don't think we will ever completely get over the loss of Harry and what happened.

"To find out that Harry's death is not the only such case where babies have lost their lives as a result of delays in maternity care makes me so angry. The Trust has apologised but, knowing that little has been done to correct past mistakes, they just feel like empty words."

Background and timeline:

  • Katie Page was identified as having a high risk pregnancy due to a family history of thrombosis and a history of Factor V Leiden thrombophilia herself
  • Her pregnancy progressed well and when she visited Worcestershire Royal Hospital at 39 weeks 5 days she was booked in for an induction of labour at Term plus 10 days on 6th October 2009
  • On 6th October at 13.20 Mrs Page telephoned the Day Assessment Unit (DAU) at the hospital reporting that she had suffered mild contractions during the night which had become stronger. Mrs Page was advised to stay at home but to contact the unit again if she became concerned
  • At 15:10 Mrs Page again phoned the DAU, this time to report a reduction in foetal movements. She was not advised to attend the hospital but drink ice cold water and call back in 1 to 2 hours
  • At 17.45 Mrs Page called again to report that she was suffering 4 to 5 contractions every 10 minutes. Again she was not advised to attend hospital but to phone back with an update
  • Mrs Page telephoned the DAU again at 20:40 stating that she had not felt her baby move since 16:00. She was advised to ‘await events’ and call back if she required pain relief
  • At 00.30 on 7 October 2009 Mrs Page again phoned the DAU as she was not coping with the pain and requested to come into hospital
  • At 02:00 she was admitted to the DAU/Triage. There she was assessed by a midwife rather than an obstetrician who did not perform a CT scan trace but listened to the foetal heart for around one minute. A vaginal examination was performed and Mrs Page was sent home at 3:00 without further investigation or obstetric review
  • The decision to induce Mrs Page was postponed until an unspecified later date, despite the fact that it had been booked for the previous day
  • At 9:00 on 7 October Mrs Page phoned the DAU to ask about her induction of labour but was told no beds were available and to call back in 2 hours
  • At 11.25 Mrs Page telephoned and was only able to speak to a student nurse who told her to phone back at 14:00 because there were insufficient staff and no beds available
  • Further phone calls were made later that afternoon. Finally at 19:00 hours, in the absence of advice from hospital staff, Mrs Page went to the antenatal ward at Worcestershire Royal Hospital requesting admission onto a maternity ward
  • Mrs Page was not admitted to a labour ward until 21.45
  • There were further delays in appropriately assessing Mrs Page. It was not until 23:15 – some 4 hours and 15 minutes after admission – that a midwife attempted to check the foetal heart. The baby’s heart beat could not be located and an obstetric registrar was called. Ultrasound scans were performed at 23:35 and again at 00:10 on 9th October which confirmed intra-uterine death
  • Mrs Page was induced at 9:00 on 9th October 2009 and was forced to suffer a prolonged labour which culminated in baby Harry being delivered stillborn at 21:28 – some 10 hours after death was first confirmed