Parents Of Stillborn Baby Call On NHS Trust To Confirm Maternity Standards Have Improved

Expert Lawyers Say Baby’s Death Was ‘Totally Unnecessary’

15.10.2013

The heartbroken parents of a baby delivered stillborn have slammed the care they were given by midwives and doctors and say they do not feel confident that lessons have been learnt from the ‘appalling’ catalogue of failings made by hospital staff.

Devoted parents Kerry and Craig Watson, from Normanton in West Yorkshire, say they will never get over the trauma of losing their son Cameron in January 2012, because despite pleading with staff at both Pinderfields and Pontefract Hospitals to help their unborn child, their concerns were ignored until it was too late.

To make matters worse Kerry then had to undergo a 24 hour labour to deliver Cameron who had died after staff, including a Consultant, ignored CTG results which revealed he was being starved of oxygen in the womb, and she was told the only place available for her to recover was on the ward with all the new mums. The consultant is now being investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC) and has restrictions on his practice.

Heartbroken and desperate for answers as to why their baby had died the couple, who also have an eight-year-old son, instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate.

A review into maternity services within Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust following Cameron’s death revealed concerns about:
• Staff’s professional behaviour – A consultant was described as being unprofessional and rude in his approach with Kerry and Craig;
• Midwives were afraid to question the Consultant’s decisions when it was apparent the patient could be in danger;
• Inadequate documentation;
• Inadequate assessment of clinical information – A fetal heart scan identified Cameron’s heartbeat as weak but it was not acted upon;
• Lack of skills in managing bereaved families and a lack of bereavement facilities.

It also revealed that if Cameron had been delivered just one day earlier by emergency caesarean after a heart scan revealed his abnormal heartbeat, he would have survived. Instead the results of the scan were ignored.

The Consultant who led the review made a series of recommendations to the Trust to improve each of these areas to prevent the same tragedy from happening again, but Kerry and Craig say they do not feel confident that other patients are not at risk of suffering from the same outcome.

The couple are speaking out for the first time after experts at Irwin Mitchell secured an admission of liability from Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust (which covers both Pinderfields and Pontefract Hospitals).

Anna Bosley, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office who represents Kerry, 28, and Craig, 27, said: “This couple has been devastated by the loss of their son Cameron and they understandably wanted answers about what went wrong.

“Over a week-long period they visited Pinderfields and Pontefract Hospitals asking staff to check their baby as they had concerns about his lack of movement, but both midwives and doctors who examined Kerry failed to recognise something was seriously wrong. This is despite a scan showing his heartbeat was weak – a clear sign that he was in danger.

“Whilst we welcome the fact that the Trust has admitted responsibility, we back the couple’s calls for proof from the trust that improvements have been made to maternity services to protect patient safety and prevent the same catalogue of failings being made again.”

Kerry suffered high blood pressure throughout the pregnancy and her 30 week scan revealed the baby was in the breech position so she was booked for a caesarean on 28 December 2011. However on Boxing Day she visited Pinderfields because she had been in a lot of pain and had not felt the baby move for some time.

Staff carried out tests but put it down to Cameron being a sleepy baby, despite Kerry pointing out the fact he had always been very active. The midwife then said the caesarean would no longer be necessary as he had moved out of the breech position. Kerry was told that she did not need to return until 11 January 2012.

However, by 3 January 2012 Kerry was feeling unwell with pain under her ribs and lower stomach. She was still concerned as she hadn’t felt the baby move so she and Craig went to the midwife drop-in centre. Kerry’s blood pressure was very high so she was referred to Pontefract Hospital for more tests.

Again, a monitor was applied and detected only a faint heartbeat, but this was ignored and they were again reassured he was just a sleepy baby. However, as Cameron had not met the essential criteria on the monitor, Kerry was referred through to the Consultant.

The couple explained to the Consultant why there were there and what their concerns were, but the Consultant failed to check the results that had been printed from the monitor and instead told Kerry to go to Pinderfields the following day to be induced. Kerry and Craig arrived around 8.30am but on arrival no one was expecting them as their appointment had not been communicated and when midwives still struggled to find a heartbeat the couple knew something was seriously wrong.

Kerry said: “After a student midwife and a senior midwife could not find a heartbeat, a doctor eventually came in and placed a scanner on my stomach and turned the screen to face us. It was obvious our son’s heart was not beating. We asked whether our son was alive but no one would answer and a radiographer was then called in. She took pictures on the scanner for five minutes. We were totally distraught by this point and finally she said, ‘I’m sorry, he’s gone’.

“We were in complete and utter disbelief. We had known for days that something wasn’t right but hospital staff made us feel that we were being a nuisance and tried to brush it all under the carpet.  We also felt that no one had been interested in us because it was the Christmas holiday period.

“I then had to give birth naturally to Cameron so the labour was induced. I was sent to the labour ward and at the same time, I was asked to give my consent to a post mortem which added to my distress. I was in labour for 24 hours and for most of this time, we were left alone. I felt that the staff didn’t want to face us and we were totally unsupported through the process. This was the most horrendous experience of my life but to top it off, midwives said the only place available for me to recover was on the ward with all the new mums. There was no way I could do it so we were sent home.

“It just breaks my heart to know that if Cameron had been delivered by caesarean or even the day before when we saw the Consultant, he’d still be alive today but instead we felt we were ignored and dismissed because we were blocking up the Consultant’s clinic, which was the first clinic back after New Year.”

Craig, a Store Manager, added: “We had wanted to extend our family for years but had struggled to conceive so when we found out Kerry was pregnant we were overjoyed.

“We are still struggling to come to terms with what happened, particularly as we don’t feel reassured that lessons have been learnt to prevent others having to go through what we have and we know that the Consultant involved is still working.

“Nothing could bring Cameron back or begin to make up for what happened but knowing that everything possible has been done to prevent another baby from dying might mean we can finally lay him to rest and try to begin the long process of rebuilding our lives.”

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a negligent delivery, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.