NHS Trust Admits Midwifery Failures Caused Baby Boy To Suffer Catastrophic Brain Damage

Admission Of Liability Brings Family One Step Closer To Lifetime Care Package

04.04.2014

The devoted parents of a two-year-old boy who suffered catastrophic brain damage at birth because of a series of errors made by midwives have spoken of their relief after the hospital trust admitted liability for its failings, paving the way for a lifetime settlement to be agreed.

However parents Neil Lewis and his partner Charmaine Malcolm say the legal victory, secured by expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, brings mixed emotions as they now have to learn to accept that their son Ollie Lewis should have been born healthy and more could have been done to help him.

Ollie, who turned two in February, was not expected to live any longer than two hours because midwives at St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol failed to monitor Charmaine to realise she was in established labour, nor did they check Ollie’s heart rate to realise that this was dropping dangerously low showing he was in distress and his brain was being starved of oxygen.

He surpassed initial expectations but is now registered blind, suffers epilepsy and severe cerebral palsy, meaning he needs 24-hour care as he barely sleeps and requires pump feeding for 20 hours per day. Neil has had to give up his job as a recruitment consultant and Charmaine lost her business as a self-employed hairdresser so they could provide Ollie’s care.

 The couple, from Weston-Super-Mare, instructed medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate what went wrong during his delivery and to help them gain access to a vital care and rehabilitation package for him.

Irwin Mitchell commissioned expert evidence which found that midwives failed to provide continuous heart monitoring for Ollie. Medical evidence also found that had Ollie been delivered by emergency caesarean less than half an hour before he was delivered naturally on 21 February 2012, his brain damage would in all likelihood have been avoided.

An internal investigation launched by the Trust after Ollie’s birth also concluded that midwives failed to diagnose that Charmaine was in full labour meaning Ollie’s heart rate was left unmonitored for several hours and the unit was understaffed which meant patients did not get the level of care from midwives that they should have.

A series of recommendations in staffing levels, communication between teams and attitude were drawn up in an action plan to ensure lessons were learned.

Now, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust has admitted full liability for the failures in Ollie’s care which caused the brain damage and offered an undisclosed interim payment to cover the cost of much needed equipment and provide additional immediate support from specialist carers.

The Trust also confirmed that it would send an official letter of apology to the family and continue to work with the legal team at Irwin Mitchell as it looks to secure a lifetime care package for Ollie.

Natalie Jones, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office is representing the family.

Neil, 28, added: “The admission of liability has left us feeling very mixed emotions. Of course, we are relieved that Ollie’s future will be financially secure and that the Trust has admitted its mistakes, but at the same time it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that our son is permanently brain damaged because of failures by the midwifery team and hospital.

“We trusted the hospital staff and believed they would do everything possible to keep Charmaine and Ollie safe, so to know this wasn’t the case has left us feeling angry, confused and frustrated.

“Ollie is a remarkable little boy and we are incredibly proud of him, but nothing can turn back the clock. We just hope that the Trust has done everything possible to improve the care other new mums and babies are given to ensure no one else has to go through a similar ordeal.”

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.