Over a period of 21 months between September 2014 and May 2016, the BBC has uncovered nine suspicious baby deaths at the Princess Royal and Royal Shrewsbury Hospitals, both part of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust. Inquests carried out by the local coroner revealed that at least seven of the deaths were avoidable, with families alleging that the remaining two deaths were never properly investigated by the trust.
Investigations found that the deaths had either been caused by or contributed to, by doctors and midwives failing to read and interpret heart rates correctly, or by their failure to listen to the heart beat at all. This meant that they were unable to notice signs of foetal distress and consequently failed in identifying when babies needed delivering sooner, or by caesarean section.
A monitor used in hospitals, called a cardiotocograph or CTG, can give an indication of how the foetal heart rate is responding to the stress caused by the mother’s contractions. Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives says that although this technology has been used for decades, “unfortunately, we are still seeing mistakes being made, though we have been training midwives and doctors in this technique for a very long time.” The CTG can give an indication of how the foetal heart rate is responding to the stress caused by the mother’s contractions but sometimes the mother’s heart-rate is mistaken for that of her baby.
Medical Director of Shrewsbury and Telford Trust, Dr Edwin Borman has attempted to reassure the public, stating that its perinatal mortality rates are in line with those at other Trusts. He went on to say, “In the case of foetal heart rate monitoring, we have identified a number of cases where learning has not been fully implemented. We’ve put systems in place to make improvements”, but a separate analysis of all NHS trusts in England last year rated Shrewsbury and Telford as one of the worst in the country when it came to learning from mistakes and incidents, describing the trust as having a poor reporting culture. It was criticised heavily in 2016 following the death of baby Kate Stanton-Davies, whose parents have issued a plea to Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, for a public enquiry into the continuing failures of the trust. Kate’s mother, Rhiannon, said that by not learning from the mistakes made leading to Kate’s death “they [the trust] haven’t just killed my daughter, but they have disregarded the value of her life, her memory.”
Inez Brown, Partner at the Medical Accident Group, says “It is devastating that lives are being lost through avoidable mistakes. Although the consequences can be fatal, lots of babies who are injured through lack of foetal heart monitoring actually survive. However, in doing so, they often suffer brain damage as a result of the brain being starved of oxygen, resulting in cerebral palsy. It is therefore so important that all Trusts learn from and act on these mistakes to avoid them happening again. I am currently investing a number of birth injury claims for injured patients.”
In addition, here at the Medical Accident Group we have a wealth of experience dealing with birth injury. Whilst no amount of money will compensate parents and their children, we are able to support families by helping them to obtain awards of compensation, giving them access to much-needed aids and assistance to ensure that brain-injured children live a life of equality and happiness.
If you or your child has fallen victim to a medical error during child-birth, call our specialist team for free on 0800 050 1668 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.