An out of court settlement of tens of thousands of pounds has been awarded to a couple whose first child was sadly stillborn as a consequence of admitted negligent failures in care.
A couple from the East Midlands have received damages after their Son was tragically stillborn in early 2020, which was found to be as a result of negligent failures in care.
The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, approached Setfords Solicitors to investigate a Clinical Negligence claim against University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, being the Trust responsible for the Leicester Royal Infirmary, and were represented by Adam Wright, a specialist Clinical Negligence Solicitor.
The couple were delighted to discover that they were expecting their first child in 2019. During a routine antenatal appointment, the Mother was found to have a low pregnancy associated plasma protein, known as low “PAPP-A”, which is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy, and is known to have a risk for fetal growth restriction in late pregnancy. Because of this, NICE guidance (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) recommends monthly ultrasound scans from 26 weeks of the pregnancy. The aim being to assess the health of the baby and to check for signs of fetal growth restriction. The pregnancy progressed normally and ultrasound scans were conducted in accordance with these recommendations, until around 38 weeks, when no appointment was offered for an ultrasound scan, despite the Mother attempting to book one. She was told that there were no appointments available but that she would be notified once an appointment became available. However, the Mother was not contacted.
Thereafter, the Mother had a scheduled community midwife appointment, when she was 39 weeks and 4 days into her pregnancy, however, this appointment was cancelled at short notice due to the community Midwife being off sick. Despite the Mother trying to arrange an appointment to be seen by an alternative Midwife, she was told that there were no appointments available, and the only appointment that could be made was 6 days later.
At 40 weeks and 1 day into the pregnancy, the Mother phoned the emergency telephone number for the hospital’s Maternity Assessment Unit because she was concerned that she could not feel her baby moving. During this call, she was reassured, and told to lay on her left-hand side and to drink a cold drink. She was told to concentrate on her baby’s movements, and if she remained concerned after a further 30 minutes, she should call again.
The Mother followed these instructions but remained concerned, and so called the Maternity Assessment Unit again around 30 minutes later. This time, she was invited to attend the hospital for assessment.
The Mother attended the hospital that same day and, upon conducting their assessment, it was discovered that her baby had tragically passed away. The Mother was required to stay in hospital and she gave birth to her little boy 2 days later. Both the Mother and Father suffered psychologically as a result of their baby’s stillbirth. The Mother found it extremely hard to talk about what had happened, her sleep was disturbed and she was unable to look at items she had purchased in anticipation of her baby’s arrival without breaking down emotionally.
Following the events, an investigation was conducted by the HSIB (Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch). They produced a report identifying a number or issues with the management of the pregnancy. In particular, they identified that there was a missed opportunity to perform an ultrasound scan between 38 and 39 weeks, which was not in line with the recommended care pathway for a Mother with low PAAP-A. Alarmingly, they identified that there was a backlog of in excess of 100 appointment forms at the time the Mother had sought to arrange her scan and that the Trust had been alert to this problem since March 2018, with the issue appearing on the Trust’s risk register.
Additionally, the investigation found that there was a community Midwife available to attend the Mother when her appointment at 39 weeks and 4 days was cancelled. The investigation was unable to determine why the Mother had been informed that no appointments were available that same day.
Furthermore, the investigation found that the advice given to the Mother when she phoned with concerns over a lack of movements, was not in line with national guidance, and that there is no evidence to support the advice which was given, to take a cold drink.
However, the investigation report was unable to determine if these errors contributed to the death of the baby. Adam Wright, a Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Setfords Solicitors, was then instructed to investigate these errors in care and to determine if they caused or contributed to the stillbirth of the couple’s baby.
After obtaining the medical records, an expert Midwife and an Obstetrician & Gynaecologist expert were instructed. It was their evidence that the errors in care, as identified by the HSIB investigation, amounted to negligence, and that, had an ultrasound scan have been performed when it should have been, it would likely have shown a reduction in the baby’s growth and, where the Mother had low PAAP-A, this would have indicated possible fetal growth restriction. This would have resulted in the Mother being offered to have the pregnancy induced, which would have expedited the baby’s delivery and avoided his sad death. The experts also formed the opinion that, had the Mother been able to see the community Midwife at 39 weeks and 4 days, the Midwife would have measured the bump (known as a measurement of the “SFH”) which would have identified a drop in growth. Because of this, she would have been referred for an ultrasound scan immediately, and this scan would have revealed possible fetal growth restriction and resulted in the earlier delivery of the baby. Again, such actions would have prevented the stillbirth.
Following receipt of the expert evidence, formal allegations were submitted to the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. Their lawyers, NHS Resolution, investigated the allegations and provided a formal response admitting that the Trust breached its duty of care and that, in the absence of these failings, a management plan would likely have been put in place and that the stillbirth would have been avoided.
Following receipt of the admission of liability, settlement negotiations commenced, and the couple recovered damages in an out of court settlement equating to tens of thousands of pounds. However, no amount of money will ever adequately compensate a family for such a tragic loss. The motivation for the couple was to highlight the failures in care and to ensure that the Trust learned from these failings, so as to prevent any future similar incidents.