Devastating Death Prompts Call for Investigation at Maternity Ward

Couples Contact Lawyers For Help Following Tragic Stillbirths

27.10.2011

A lawyer contacted for help by a devastated woman whose baby died after she was left ‘barely supervised’ during her six hour labour have today called for an immediate investigation into the midwifery care available at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Stephanie Forman, a birth trauma and patient’s rights expert at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, says she has become ‘increasingly alarmed’ about standards of care in the maternity unit, as this is not the first time her team has been approached for help by families who have suffered still births.

She is now calling for a thorough investigation into two stillbirth cases to establish whether lessons can be learnt.

The call comes just weeks after the Royal College of Midwives released figures which found the South East needed more than 1000 additional staff to meet the needs and ensure the safety of pregnant woman and their babies across the region.

The 39-year-old woman, who was admitted to hospital and induced in May this year, says she suffered a series of horrific experiences that left her scared and in agony, with little medical support.

Unmonitored for hours at a time and dismissed by midwives when she raised serious concerns about the level of pain she was experiencing, her baby was tragically stillborn having been starved of oxygen during the labour process.

In June this year, the woman and her husband received a letter from the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust apologising for the treatment they had received and acknowledging that the level of care fell ‘significantly below’ the standard the couple should have expected.

Ms Forman said: “This couple have been devastated by the death of their baby boy under such horrific circumstances.

“Whilst we are in the very early stages of our investigations we can confirm that the family have called on us to help them establish whether more could have been done to save his life, and to support them in their call for a full and thorough investigation into what happened.

“We are particularly concerned having received a number of calls from couples who also suffered the devastating experience of delivering a stillborn baby at this maternity ward over the past couple of years and feel that urgent action must be taken.”

The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “Losing our son has left a permanent hole in our lives that nothing will ever fill. It is a struggle to get through each day and I really don’t see that we will ever be able to move on with our lives.
 
“I am simply appalled by the treatment I received in hospital the day I gave birth. I was left alone, barely supervised and in agony for hours at a time, and no one took my calls for help seriously. The apology from the Trust is just too little too late for us, where were the medical professionals I placed my trust in when I needed them?

“I am 39 now and, having already miscarried once and lost my baby boy so tragically, I don’t know if I will ever have the chance to become a mum or my husband a dad. Our parents may never become grandparents and it breaks my heart.

“I just hope now that immediate action is taken by the Trust to make sure this never happens to anyone else, that no other mother is left terrified like I was.”

The team at Irwin Mitchell was also contacted for help by a 38-year-old woman, who delivered twins at the Hospital in September 2009 having been admitted to the Royal Berkshire Hospital with pre-eclampsia several weeks before her due date.

Medical staff attached a CTG trace to monitor both babies’ heartbeats before assuring the woman that everything was OK. But an ultrasound the following day revealed that one baby had sadly died and a c-section was deemed necessary.

Despite the urgency of the situation she was left for a further seven hours before being taken into the operating theatre where her baby was tragically stillborn. Thankfully, her sister was born healthy.

An investigation carried out by the Trust following the incident later revealed that the CTG trace had only ever picked up on one of the babies heart beats and that, as a result, it should have already been apparent to medical staff that one of the babies had died.

Stephanie Forman said: “These women are rightly angry about the care they received at the Royal Berkshire Hospital during what should have been the most special times of their lives.

“Patient safety should always be a priority for both the NHS and government, and they need to show signs that action will be taken immediately on this very serious matter, especially in light of the recent figures from the Royal College of Midwives that hospitals in this region are exceptionally understaffed.”