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Medical Negligence

Maternity failings led to the devastating loss of two-day old baby

Katie Fowler and Robert Miller lost their daughter, Abigail, at only two days old, due to failings in the care given to them before her birth by the maternity team at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. Read how Slater and Gordon is supporting the couple in their action against the scandal-hit hospital, as well as supporting them for change in maternity services nationally.

15 February 2024

Our clients story

Katie and Robert were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first and only child, Abigail, in January 2022 and when Katie went into labour, she contacted the Maternity Assessment Unit (MAU) at the Royal Sussex, in Brighton.

She was assured everything was fine and to remain at home, but when she experienced bleeding, which then became worse, she was told in two further phone calls not to worry. On the fourth phone call, which was to report that Katie had become faint and short of breath, she was advised to come in – but was not told it was urgent or to call an ambulance.

Katie and Robert took a taxi to the hospital, and it was during this journey Katie went into cardiac arrest due to a uterine rupture. Abigail was born via emergency caesarean in a hospital reception area as soon as the couple arrived.

Both Katie and Abigail needed to be resuscitated and Katie was placed in an induced coma. Abigail passed away two days later, with Katie being brought out of her coma to meet her daughter for the first time, as well as to say goodbye.

An inquest into Abigail’s death found that, had Katie been given more timely advice and better standards of care, her daughter would have survived.

The Royal Sussex maternity unit has been rated as inadequate by the CQC since October 2021, and has been subject to whistleblowing from its own staff to highlight its “unsafe” maternity service.

How Slater and Gordon is helping

Principal lawyer, Nisha Sharma, is supporting Katie and Rob in taking action against the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

She also supported the couple in ensuring an inquest was held into Abigail’s death – the right of every parent after their baby’s death, but something that is not widely known.

Through the tireless work of Nisha and the clinical negligence team at Slater and Gordon, the evidence was gathered for the coroner which led to a conclusion that Abigail would have survived for “substantially longer” had she and her mother been given the care they deserved.

The claim against the hospital – which is rated as inadequate by CQC overall, and its general surgery and neurosurgery departments are under police investigation through Operation Bramber – is ongoing.

Keen to make positive change and save other families from the devastation they have faced, Katie and Rob are calling for improvements to maternity services at the Royal Sussex and nationally, as well as a public inquiry to be held into maternity provision across the country. They are being supported by Slater and Gordon in their calls through the law firm’s dedicated campaign to raise maternity standards.

Katie and Robert want improvements to be made in maternity telephone triage, to better support expectant parents remotely – as the first point of contact when a mother-to-be goes into labour - and would like bereaved parents to be aware of their rights to an inquest for their child.

Their main aim is to secure a public inquiry into what are systemic failures in maternity units nationally, with statistics from the CQC released late in 2023 showing that 67 per cent of maternity departments are not safe enough.

Individual investigations into maternity services include those for Morecambe Bay, which found 20 major failures; Shrewsbury and Telford, which found that failures may have led to the deaths of more than 200 babies and nine mothers; and East Kent, which said that dozens of babies may have survived if they had received better care.

Katie and Robert believe a national inquiry is the only way forward to ensure that urgently needed reform within maternity provision nationally will happen.

“A national inquiry is the only way forward – we cannot continue to treat every incident as a separate tragedy,” said the couple.

“The government needs to look at the pattern of consistent failures across the UK and make real changes to maternity care to reverse the decline of this vital service.”

Nisha Sharma added: “We fully support Katie and Robert in their calls for a national inquiry, which we believe is essential in addressing the systemic failures we are seeing in maternity care across the UK. The lives of babies and mothers are at risk until action is taken, and taking steps to prevent this absolutely cannot wait.

“At Slater and Gordon, we are absolutely committed to doing all we can to make the voices of parents heard, and to bring about change which will prevent these tragedies happening time and again. We would urge the Government to listen to bereaved parents like Katie and Robert and act now without further delay.”

How can we help you

Maternity failings can lead to a host of devastating consequences. As well as supporting families after the loss of their baby, we also act for clients across the country who have experienced injury to mother and/or baby at birth.

If you have been affected by medical mistakes before, during or after birth, clinical negligence experts at Slater and Gordon can help. For support, contact us here

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