Lawyers Seeking NHS Patient Safety Assurances After Coroner Raises Concerns

Hospital Urged To Improve Following Death Of Baby

14.09.2011

Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell are calling for a South Yorkshire hospital to learn lessons and improve its procedures after the mother of a baby girl who died at Rotherham General raised concerns about delays in her treatment.

Grace Houghton died from a virus that damaged her heart just seven days after her birth in September 2009. Her mother Natasha Cashmore, 23 from Brampton Brierlow, Rotherham had told staff she was worried days before staff acted to try and treat her daughter. Mrs Cashmore was raising continual concerns about Grace’s wellbeing in the period following birth however these were not sufficiently noted in the medical records

Recording a narrative verdict this week, Coroner Ms Mundy said she would be writing a letter to the Trust highlighting concerns in relation to the delay in the time from deciding to perform a lumbar puncture in an attempt to diagnose Baby Grace’s condition and this actually being carried out.

Now medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell are seeking reassurance from the NHS Trust that any possible improvements to patient safety resulting from the recommendations made in the letter are implemented to improve survival chances for any future patients.

Grace Houghton was born on 30 September 2009 at Rotherham General Hospital by emergency caesarean section as her mother was suffering abdominal pain and a raised temperature. Grace was born well and was kept on the ward with her mother who continued to show signs of infection for which she was receiving antibiotics.  During this period Mrs Cashmore was very worried about the possibility of passing on her infection to Grace, and concerned when Grace slept for 8 hours, an unusually long period of time for a new born. 

On 6 October Grace’s condition deteriorated and she was admitted to the Special Care Baby Unit.  Despite treatment she did not improve and died at just a week old on the evening of 7 October 2009 in the arms of her mother. 

Investigations into Grace’s death have concluded she was suffering with Coxsackie Virus, which damaged her heart. Although the Inquest heard how there was no treatment available that could have saved Grace, the Coroner accepted that Mrs Cashmore had raised serious concerns about Grace’s condition which were not noted.

Ian Murray, a specialist in the Medical Law team at Irwin Mitchell is representing the family. He said: “Grace’s tragic death left the family feeling devastated. They were hoping to get answers to their questions about how their worries about Grace were handled. They just hope that the Trust will now learn important lessons and act on the Coroner’s recommendations in the hope that preventable deaths can be avoided in future.

“The family is seeking assurances that the concerns of parents are taken seriously to make sure that if there are any similar situations in future any curable conditions are identified and acted upon as soon as possible.”

Miss Cashmore said: “The past two years have been awful. I am disappointed that despite my concerns being raised in a formal complaint, they were not addressed in full by the hospital in its own internal investigation and it has taken a coroner’s inquest to deal with that aspect of Grace’s care.

“I hope that by highlighting Grace’s story we can ensure that in future quicker action might be able to help save lives to prevent other parents from going through the ordeal that we have suffered.”