Baby Poppy Was Three Days Old When She Passed Away At Calderdale Royal Hospital
The parents of a baby born on Boxing Day in 2011, but who died just three-days later, are calling for a review into whether NHS Guidelines are consistently applied, holiday resources and safety net arrangements following the death of their daughter.
Dr Natalie Powell gave birth to Poppy at Calderdale Royal Hospital over two weeks past her due date. The Trust’s liberal interpretation of NHS Guidelines led to Natalie being admitted to a midwife unit rather than the central labour ward, which meant that continuous fetal monitoring was not available during labour.
There was a delay in detecting a prolonged drop in Poppy’s heart rate during labour and delivering her. She required intubation when she was born as she wasn’t breathing.
Doctors informed Natalie and her husband, Nicholas Powell, that it was highly unlikely that Poppy would survive and if she did, she would have severe brain damage and would require extensive care.
Poppy was taken off her ventilator on the 29th December, 2011, and died shortly afterwards the same day.
Poppy’s parents instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her death. The legal case has now been settled out of Court for an undisclosed five-figure sum, but the Defendant, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust did not admit liability at any stage.
Natalie and Nicholas are now keen for lessons to be learnt from Poppy’s death to ensure that others do not have to go through the traumatic experience they suffered.
Natalie, 38, who lives in Littleborough, Lancashire, said: “Losing Poppy was the hardest thing I’ve had to face in my life. All the way through the pregnancy, I was told that she was healthy and I was a ‘low-risk” pregnancy.
“However the more overdue Poppy went, the more worried I became about potential risks to the pregnancy. I was reassured by staff that it would be safe to continue monitoring Poppy rather than undergo induction. However, when a problem did arise the staff weren’t prepared for it because they never seemed to anticipate something might go wrong.”
Natalie was originally booked to be induced at 8am Christmas morning, when she was exactly two weeks overdue. However, following a discussion with a midwife on Christmas Eve this was cancelled and changed to a monitoring appointment with a midwife. At 5pm Christmas Day, Natalie and Nicholas arrived at Calderdale Royal Hospital where Natalie received between 20 and 30 minutes of cardiotocography (CTG) and blood pressure monitoring. A CTG is used to measure a baby’s heart rate.
NHS Guidelines state that when a woman is 42 weeks pregnant, she should be induced or offered increased monitoring, including scanning, to check the wellbeing of both mother and baby. Natalie and Nicholas felt uneasy at the level of monitoring of Natalie and Poppy on Christmas Day, especially given how overdue the pregnancy was and what the NHS Guidelines state.
The important issue of holiday resources is another one Natalie and Nicholas want to raise awareness about. The hospital did not take the holiday period into account, which meant that Natalie was unable to undergo the scanning recommended by NHS Guidelines. In retrospect, they believe that holiday resources were a significant factor prompting the discussion to cancel the planned induction.
If Natalie had gone into labour outside of the holiday period, full staffing and resources would have been available to help staff co-ordinate an effective management plan. Natalie and Nicholas firmly believe that if the NHS is not going to apply its own guidelines consistently across its NHS Trusts then any departures should only be undertaken with senior medical input, appropriate planning and ensuring that safety net resources are in place.
Kevin Saul, the expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said:
Expert Opinion“Natalie and Nicholas were left completely devastated by the tragic loss of their first child, Poppy.
“Now the legal case is finished, they are keen to ensure that lessons are learnt from this terrible ordeal in order to improve patient safety in the future and hopefully reduce the risk of other parents from suffering the way they have.
“Their experience highlights the need to ensure that guidelines are adhered to, first and foremost. If necessary, any decision to depart from protocol should be properly assessed by senior staff in advance and fully take into account the impact of any holiday period on resources. This issue needs to be addressed within the NHS on a national level." Kevin Saul - Senior Associate Solicitor
Since Poppy’s death, Natalie, a psychologist, and Nicholas, a probation officer, have had two healthy children.