Young mother holding her new born baby

Medical Negligence

Hospitals failings led to severe brain injury during out client's birth

Our client, a young mother whose baby nearly died during delivery, shares her family's story.

20 September 2022

Our Client

Our client, Stacey, was deemed ‘high risk’ by Nottingham University Hospital when pregnant with her second baby due to her son measuring large. During her pregnancy, she wasn’t advised about the risks of natural birth, or the other options available to her. A midwife noted that a consultant review should take place to discuss this, but that never happened.

When Stacey passed her due date, a midwife sought advice from a consultant because of how large she was measuring. Without seeing Stacey in person, they advised that she needed to be induced. On the morning of 22 August 2015, Stacey called Nottingham University Hospital as she started to have contractions, but was told to call back in a few hours as there were no beds available.

By 2:30pm Stacey’s contractions were closer together. She called the hospital again and was told there were still no beds available, and to call back when her contractions were three to four minutes apart. Just an hour later, Stacey called again and was told to come in, despite there still being no beds available. When Stacey arrived, she was placed in a room designed for low-risk births that wasn’t equipped to facilitate a high-risk pregnancy. Staff reassured Stacey that this was simply a place to wait, and that she wouldn’t be giving birth in that room.

However, whilst in labour, the baby wasn’t advancing, and the midwife was unable to find the baby’s heart rate on multiple occasions. With this being Stacey’s second pregnancy, she knew something wasn’t right, and told the midwife that her son wasn’t moving. A consultant came to review Stacey and ordered an urgent episiotomy (a surgical cut to assist with a difficult delivery). When her son was born, he wasn’t breathing. He required resuscitation and was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit.

Stacey’s son now suffers from development delay, visual problems and cerebral palsy, after suffering from brain damage at birth. He has restricted mobility and is dependent on others. Stacey said: “Had I been advised that there was even a small risk associated with going full term with a large baby and a natural birth I would have opted for an elective caesarean section.”

Our work so far

As a result of their experience, Stacey and her family has now launched legal action against Nottingham University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust with Slater and Gordon. Laura Preston, medical negligence expert and principal lawyer, recognises the similarities between Stacey’s experience and the findings of the ongoing Ockenden Review. She said: “It is clear that communication pathways and systemic processes need to be improved. This tragic incident might have been avoided had protocols been followed and resources less stretched. We hope that significant changes will be made to maternity services across the country so that parents can rebuild their trust and know that they are in safe hands when they embark upon this life-changing journey.

This young boy will need rehabilitation and specialist care for the rest of his life. We hope our investigations will give Stacey and her family answers and the resources to give their son a better quality of life.”

What is the Ockenden Review?

Established in May 2022, the Ockenden Review was set up following significant concerns regarding both the safety and quality of maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH). It’s chaired by senior midwife Donna Ockenden, who recently chaired a similar review into Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust. As part of the review, a team of experienced midwives, doctors, and medical professionals across the country reviewed multiple cases of concerning maternity services provided at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

On September 1st 2022, Donna Ockenden and her team officially opened the Independent Review, urging anyone with concerns about maternity care in the Trust come forward and be part of the process. See more on the Independent Review here.

What does this mean for the future?

The review hopes to assess whether necessary changes should be implemented to make Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) safer for the future. Still, for Stacey, and many others that’ve been affected by negligent maternity care, their family’s lives have been changed forever.

Speaking about her son, Stacey said: “[He] is always going to need support and he is very unlikely to be able to live independently and that is a crushing piece of information to have to accept about your son, particularly in a situation where it might be the case that things could have been different, had his delivery been managed more appropriately.”

“It has been seven years since our terrible ordeal and there are still lessons to be learned. Donna Ockenden’s inquiry will finally lead to long awaited changes to the maternity services and, hopefully, it will save new-born babies’ and mothers’ lives.”

How can Slater and Gordon help?

As the Independent Review opens, Donna Ockenden and her team are urging anyone with concerns about maternity care in the NUH to come forward and share their experience. At Slater and Gordon, our specialist medical negligence solicitors are well experienced in working with individuals who’ve suffered due to negligent maternity care.

Speaking of the ongoing review, our expert Laura Preston said: “Having also acted for families affected by the maternity care at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital, which led to a criminal inquiry, it is a real concern that these scandals seem to be widespread and not a one off. Longstanding calls for lessons to be learned and changes implemented in NHS maternity care do not appear to have been acted upon and the latest leak from Nottingham on how these findings were communicated to staff is so disappointing. It shows a lack of acceptance that there is a serious problem to be addressed and for the affected families, it is totally unacceptable.”

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