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Hospital Admits Delays And Staff Shortages As Couple Demand Answers Following Death Of Their Baby Boy

Medical Lawyer Calls For Investigation Into State Of Hospital’s Maternity Services


A West Midlands couple’s legal battle for answers following the death of their baby boy has led to a hospital admitting that there were critical delays and a shortage of midwives on the night of the tragedy.

Emma Brown (30) and her partner Greig Carleton, from Yardley in Birmingham, suffered every parent’s worst nightmare when baby Tobias was sadly delivered stillborn at Heartlands Hospital on 4th October 2010.
Despite being identified as a ‘high risk pregnancy’ due to her previous caesarean section and being 12 days overdue, Emma’s induction of labour was delayed for more than 15 hours and she failed to receive one to one midwife care because the hospital was unable to cope with its workload.

An internal investigation carried out by the Trust, following baby Tobias’ death, has revealed that a shortage of midwives and a large number of women who were in labour meant that they could not provide the usual level of care. Now, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell solicitors in Birmingham, who is representing the couple, is calling for a full investigation into the state of maternity services at the hospital.

Emma Brown was admitted to Heartlands Hospital just after 2pm on 2nd October 2010 for her induction of labour. However the type of induction she needed could not be carried out as a Consultant was not available.  After waiting all afternoon and into the night, Emma was finally induced just after 5am on 3rd October.

Throughout that day, contractions started and although she was not properly examined, Emma was reassured that everything was fine.
Emma spent a second night in hospital and during that time claims staff were busy running around trying to tend to other patients but that no-one came to check on her.

By 5am, Emma felt a desperate urge to push and pressed the call button for a midwife.  The midwife who came explained that she wasn’t looking after Emma and would go and find the midwife that was. 

However, no one came back to check on Emma until she pressed the call button for a second time some 30 minutes after.  The midwife who attended at this time also claimed not to be looking after Emma but she would examine her.  At this point - the only examination Emma had had since her induction 24 hours earlier - it was found that Emma was 7cm dilated and needed to go to a delivery suite. Following this Emma felt a ‘different type of pain’ and began to bleed.

In the delivery room, there were further critical delays as doctors tried for some minutes to find the correct leads to connect electronic monitoring equipment to the baby’s head and there was confusion as to whether the heartbeat that could be heard was Emma’s or her unborn child’s.

Baby Tobias was finally born at 6.30am on 4th October. Sadly there were no signs of life and all attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. Emma was later told that she had suffered a uterine rupture where her uterus split open at the site of her previous caesarean section scar.

Laura Daly, a medical lawyer, from Irwin Mitchell solicitors in Birmingham who represents Emma and Greig, commented: “For Emma to lose her baby boy after carrying him for nine months is in itself incredibly distressing but to then discover that the hospital’s midwifery services were stretched to breaking point, has led the couple to demand answers and ask if their baby might still be alive if Emma had received better care during her labour.

“Although we are in the very early stages of investigating their claim, the internal inquiry carried out by the Trust leads me to fear that there were not only errors by individuals but there may be more serious, deep-rooted system failures including organisational problems and staffing issues.

“I hope the Trust will act now to offer both a formal admission of liability regarding failings in Emma’s care but will also review the state of maternity services at the hospital to safeguard future patients’ welfare.”

Emma Brown said: “It has been very difficult for both myself and Greig to cope with what has happened. It’s very hard to think about the child that should have been with us today. Our daughter who is two has lost a little brother and it was very difficult trying to explain to her why I didn’t bring home the baby that she knew I was having.

“It has been particularly difficult for Greig.  He cannot get past the feeling of helplessness he suffered as he watched me bleeding and in pain. The doctors and nurses’ behaviour didn’t seem to suggest there was any need for urgency.

“We would like more children in the future but the memories of Tobias are still so raw and the thought of being in hospital and having to trust medical professionals again is very difficult. I just hope that the Trust learns lessons from what has happened and that no other family have to experience the tragedy of losing a child in such circumstances.”