Devastating Injuries After Midwives Mistook Mum’s Heartbeat for Baby’s

‘Wholly avoidable delays’ led to lifetime of care needs

09.05.2011

The family of a young boy left with severe brain damage after midwives failed to notice that his heartbeat was seriously abnormal having mistakenly monitored his mum’s heart rate instead have spoken of their relief after funding was secured that guarantees him a lifetime of around-the-clock care.

Six-year-old Shane Barrett who suffers from cerebral palsy was at the High Court in London today to hear Judge Mr Justice Eady approve damages equivalent to £4.6 million over his lifetime to secure his future care needs, ending the family’s seven year battle for justice.

As mum Rachel went into labour in June, 2004 midwives at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn failed to realise that they were monitoring her heartbeat, and not the heartbeat of her baby which was seriously abnormal, leading to vital delays in his delivery.

The oldest of three children, wheelchair bound Shane now lives with his two brothers, mum Rachel and dad Chris in Saxlingham Thorpe, Norfolk where he is completely reliant on his family to meet his day to day needs.

Their lawyer, Jane Weakley from Irwin Mitchell’s specialist medical law and patient’s rights team said: “Shane is a much loved and delightful boy but he has been catastrophically injured and there is no escaping the fact that a breach of duty on the part of medical staff during his birth has left him needing extensive medical care and specialist equipment for the rest of his life.

“The money he has been awarded here today will not only secure access to everything that he needs to live as normal a life as possible despite his injuries, but has also provided peace of mind for his parents, who have fought tirelessly to ensure that justice is done for their son.”

In October 2010 The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Trust accepted that a failure to read the CTG* trace correctly resulted in vital delays in Shane’s delivery. This resulted in a lack of oxygen reaching his brain which, in turn, resulted in a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, mobility and learning difficulties.

They later agreed to pay damages for the subsequent challenges which Shane will face for the rest of his life.

Commenting on the outcome Rachel said: “It has been an incredibly hard and long fought battle to ensure that justice is done, but to know that our son will always be looked after is a huge relief for us all.

“The hospital denied for so long that they had been negligent in any way but now that fault has been established we hope that lessons will be learnt so that no one else should ever have to suffer as a result of wholly avoidable delays.

“While no amount of money will repair the damage done, we now have a chance to move on with our lives and focus all of our energies on Shane, ensuring that he achieves as much out of life as possible.

“Finally, as a family, we would also like to take the opportunity to thank Irwin Mitchell, and Jane in particular, for the care and attention we have received throughout our time with the firm.”

Jane added: “It is welcome news that the Shane now has access to the funding which will ensure he gets the best possible care and rehabilitation throughout his life. I hope all of the family can now look forward to a brighter future together.

“The extent and complexity of the problems he faces mean the funding which has been secured will provide 24-hour care, rehabilitation and therapy services that will prove invaluable throughout his day-to-day life.”

“It also means that his family can guarantee he has accommodation adapted to meet his everyday needs, as well as the chance to access specialist education. He is an intelligent and capable boy who can now access the technology he needs to communicate and learn effectively,

“However, while the settlement is welcome news, it cannot be forgotten how we reached this point. Serious failings cannot be ignored and we hope that efforts have been made to ensure that errors are not repeated.”

*Cardiotocography (CTG) is a technical means of recording the fetal heartbeat and the uterine contractions during pregnancy and labour.