University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has admitted that the tragic death of two-day-old baby Delilah Hubbard was due to their failings in treating her and her mother.
The Trust has admitted a number of failings in Delilah’s care, including inconsistent fetal monitoring and not carrying out a caesarean section sooner that would have prevented her death.
The official inquest into Delilah’s death, scheduled for April 2016, will detail which aspects of Delilah’s care were sub-standard and what measures can be put in place to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.
Delilah was born on 7 March 2015 at Leicester General Hospital, at just 32 weeks’ gestation. The staff involved in Delilah’s delivery failed to correctly measure her heart rate, meaning they did not notice that she needed medical intervention until it was too late.
When Delilah was finally delivered, she was not breathing and had to be resuscitated. She was then transferred to a neonatal unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary and placed on a ventilator to help her breathe. Sadly, staff at Leicester Royal were unable to save Delilah and she died two days later.
Report Highlights Concerns Over Treatment of Premature Babies
One in eight babies born are admitted to a neonatal unit, which specialises in treating babies who are born either prematurely like Delilah, with a low birth weight, or who require specialist medical treatment due to a condition.
A report published on the 5 November 2015 from the National Neonatal Audit Programme (NNAP) highlights the key findings and recommendations from an analysis of data provided by neonatal units on the admissions of more than 86,000 babies for neonatal care in England and Wales between 1 January and 31 December 2014.
The two key findings of the report are:
• There has been a failure to follow-up on babies born prematurely after two years;
• 10 per cent of parents are not consulted within 24 hours of their baby’s admission to a neonatal unit.
According to the report, 46 per cent of babies born more than 10 weeks prematurely either do not receive a two year follow-up after their birth or they receive a follow-up that is not recorded.
It is vital that premature babies receive a follow-up as babies born prematurely are more at risk of developing conditions such as cerebral palsy and learning difficulties. Of babies born before 26 weeks, around 20 per cent will develop cerebral palsy and around 66 per cent will need some help at school due to learning difficulties.
Caroline Davey, the Chief Executive of Bliss, a charity for children born prematurely, at a low birth weight or with an illness, said that there are significant pressures on many neonatal services, including a chronic shortage of specialist nurses trained to deal with problems affecting newborn babies.
“Two thirds of neonatal units do not have enough doctors to meet national standards…The effects of these shortfalls, across all areas of care for premature and sick babies and their families, are compromising safety and quality of care in Britain.
“Units are closing to new admissions. Over the last year, those staff and space shortages meant 855 babies had to be moved around the country in order to receive care. This is unsustainable - babies’ chances of survival and long term health are being put at risk.”
It is clear that staffing shortages around the country are having a huge impact on the quality of care available to mothers and their babies. Without urgent investment to enable hospitals to recruit the nurses, doctors and other health professionals they so desperately need, patient care will continue to suffer.
We hope the inquest into Delilah’s death helps to ensure that the mistakes made in her case are not repeated and that the NNAP report’s findings help to improve the quality of care for children born prematurely.
Gill Edwards is a senior clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.
If you or a member of your family has suffered as a result of poor NHS treatment, Slater and Gordon Lawyers can help. Call our clinical negligence solicitors 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.