Parents Speak Of Ongoing Heartache Following Death of Baby After Trust Admits Catalogue Of Failings

Expert Lawyers Say Baby Abbie’s Death Was ‘Completely Avoidable’


Distraught parents have spoken of their anger following the death of their baby girl and at receiving no apology from the NHS Trust responsible, despite hospital bosses admitting she would still be alive today were it not for the failings by midwives in her care.

Deborah and Richard Horner say they will never recover from the heartbreak of their  daughter Abbie being delivered stillborn on 17 August 2011,  following an emergency caesarean section.  Investigations revealed her death was caused by a catalogue of errors and poor communication by midwives at St James University Hospital in Leeds which led to her brain being starved of oxygen.

The couple, from North Leeds, instructed expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether more could have been done to save their only child and are speaking out for the first time after Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust admitted full liability and agreed an undisclosed settlement. The Trust has also revealed a 14-point action plan which was drawn up following Abbie’s death to improve standards.

Deborah’s pregnancy was considered high risk as she was 43-years-old and had previously suffered a miscarriage, yet no delivery or induction plan was agreed for her. The midwife in charge of her care has been subject to an individual internal investigation which found breaches including:

• Misinterpretation of the CTG (Fetal heart trace)
• Inadequate and inaccurate record keeping
• Failure to keep mother and baby the focus of care
• Failure to act within Trust guidance

She was referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and at a final hearing was given a 12 month suspension order.

The Trust’s investigations also revealed that interpretation of the CTG traces should have been agreed with a ‘buddy’ midwife and there was a failure on a number of occasions to ensure this happened and even when it did, there was a failure by the buddy to appropriately interpret or categorise the findings as well.

The Trust confirmed that on the balance of probabilities and but for these failures, Abbie would have been born alive.

However, despite the admission, the distraught parents say that they have still not received an apology and have been given no proof that the action plan has been implemented and shared across the NHS so that future parents do not suffer the same tragedy.

Kelly Morris, a specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who represents the couple said: “The loss of baby Abbie has truly devastated Deborah and Richard because she should still be alive today.

“Despite having the technology to identify when a baby’s heartbeat is irregular or weak through the CTG machine, changes on the monitor were not reported correctly for a period of eight hours which prevented the appropriate action, such as an emergency caesarean, being taken sooner. This meant that Abbie suffered catastrophic brain damage.

“We welcome the fact the Trust has admitted responsibility for the failings but it is concerning  that Deborah and Richard have not had an apology for their loss. 

“Abbie’s death was completely avoidable and we hope that the action plan drawn up by the Trust has been shared throughout the NHS to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated and patient safety is protected.”

Deborah, added: “To this day we are still shocked and appalled by what we went through and the tragic loss of our daughter Abbie.

“To know that our baby would have been born healthy had it not been for the failures to report her abnormal heartbeat is incredibly difficult to come to terms with.

“Everyone makes mistakes but there are lives at stake and my baby deserved the best possible care but, sadly, both she and I were failed.

“My family have not even received an apology despite the Trust‘s admission. This is just shocking and has left us very angry. It is just beyond belief how you could treat someone like that.

“We never want anyone else to have to suffer the same heartache we did and although we know the Trust said improvements would be made immediately, we want to see proof of this.

“Nothing will ever bring our daughter back but if they can apologise and prove that lessons have been learnt and shared across the NHS then hopefully we can start to put this horrendous ordeal behind us and try and re-build our lives.”