NHS Trust Apologises For ‘Inexcusable’ Delay In Admitting Responsibility For Death Of Baby Girl

Medical Law Experts Say Family Were Put Through Further Unnecessary Heartache

27.08.2013

By Dave Grimshaw

A couple whose newborn died at a Liverpool hospital have today demanded answers from the Trust about why they were forced to endure an ‘inexcusable’ delay in admitting that ‘substandard care’ contributed to the death of their baby girl.

Aylar Gabriella Aitken was born on 4 July, 2010 at Liverpool Women’s Hospital to mum Susan Powell, 24, and dad Rendi Aiken, 23. But she suffered devastating brain injuries that left her unable to breathe unaided, when midwives failed to act on evidence that she was distressed before she was born.

At just three days old, Aylar tragically passed away in the special care baby unit, prompting a full internal investigation into the care Susan received during her labour and the subsequent delays in carrying out an emergency C-Section.

But despite a swift internal review highlighting significant failings, followed by an apology from the Trust to the family in July 2010, it failed to respond to numerous requests from the family’s lawyer requesting formal admission of responsibility for more than eight months – a delay its own Technical Claims Director called ‘inexcusable’.

Medical law and patients’ rights expert at Irwin Mitchell, Leena Savjani, who represents Susan and Rendi, said she was eventually forced to write a letter of complaint outlining the time lapse and demanding immediate action by the NHS Litigation Authority in a bid to finally get closure for the family.

Today she called on them to provide a comprehensive overview of why there were such ‘unacceptable and unnecessary’ delay’s which had caused an already grieving couple additional heartache.

The formal admission once received closely echoed the letter of apology received by family in July 2010 from the Trust – stating that staff had:

  • Failed to follow an appropriate course of action given that a baby heart-rate monitor showed that Aylar’s heart-rate was abnormal before she was born
  • Failed to keep the baby heart-rate monitor attached in order to continuously monitor Aylar’s heart-rate given that it was known she was in distress
  • Failed to perform an emergency C-Section quickly enough

In the apology letter the Hospital’s lead for clinical governance said that no one individual was to blame for the death of their daughter, but that it was a ‘series of mistakes that cumulatively meant that Aylar was born in a poor condition’ – going as far as to call the care provided ‘suboptimal’.

The Trust’s internal investigation concluded that as well as failings on part of midwifery staff, locum doctor Dr Win Myint who managed the delivery ultimately delayed in making the decision to proceed to an emergency c-section by 30 minutes.

Leena said: “The loss of a child under any circumstances is extremely tragic but to learn that the death could have been prevented is unimaginable.

“Whilst we welcome the formal admission of fault handed down by the Trust in December last year we are concerned about how long it took for the Trust to make this, given that it clearly had all the information it needed to come to such a decision for some time.

“The findings of the internal investigation were, rightly, outlined in a letter of apology to Susan and Rendi in July 2010 and the hospital acted thoroughly and proportionately given the severity of the failings.

“But the fact remains the family have endured significant further heartache following a mistake that should never have happened and they, understandably, want to know why this is.”

Susan said: “I’d had a normal pregnancy but as my labour progressed I could tell by the panic among staff that something wasn’t right. Eventually I was given general anaesthetic and sent for a caesarean.

“When I woke up all I wanted to do was hold Aylar but the staff broke the news that she had severe brain damage and there was nothing they could do.

“My heart was breaking but I was determined not to leave her alone. Rendi and I took it in turns to be by her incubator and held her as she took her last breath.

“We continue to be very angry about what happened. Aylar should still be here as a happy healthy little girl but the mistakes made mean she had no chance at life.”

Rendi added: “We welcomed the apology, but the Trust’s refusal to admit responsibility meant the legal case was hanging over us for far longer than necessary and we couldn’t begin to try and move forward with our lives.

“It’s all very well for the Technical Claims Director to say that the delay was inexcusable but we still don’t know why it happened and whether steps need to be taken to ensure the same delay cannot happen again”.

Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has now settled the case for an undisclosed sum.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in medical negligence claims.