The Independent and Channel 4 News have discovered that dozens of babies have died or sustained brain damage due to errors during antenatal care or at birth at a Nottingham hospital.
The investigation found repeated examples of poor care over the past decade in hospitals managed by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. Findings include key medical notes going missing or never made, and on occasion were ‘completely inaccurate’. The report confirms that ‘managers failed to properly investigate concerns and altered reports to take blame away from the maternity unit’. A former senior midwife at the trust said that failures were “swept under the carpet”.
The investigation reflects another example of poor maternity care in England and Wales with a failure to adequately and timely investigate parents’ concerns with similarities to the scandal at Shrewsbury and East Kent hospitals.
Reasons given for the deaths and birth injuries sustained as a result of poor care at the Trust included delays in treatment, failure to respond to an abnormal foetal heart rate or to recognise complications, diagnose conditions, inadequate nursing care and a failure to monitor the second stage of labour.
Staff shortages led to fears over patient safety
The investigation has identified that severe staff shortages led midwives and doctors at the trust to raise “grave concerns” for patient safety as early as 2018. Worryingly, The Independent reports that shortages in staffing have worsened since then.
The health services regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), declared the maternity unit’s care “inadequate” in December 2020. The CQC identified incidents where staff failed to monitor babies’ heart rates or had misinterpreted the readings. The CQC found that some babies had suffered harm or death as a direct result of these failings. In the CQC’s latest inspection, published in May 2021, the trust’s services continue to be rated as inadequate.
Tragically, many of these deaths and conditions such as cerebral palsy are avoidable.
Bereaved parents have had to fight yet again to find out the truth about what happened to their children and in an attempt to ensure harm to other mothers and babies can be prevented in the future.
Yesterday, the Chief Executive of the Trust apologised to families and recognised that families had ‘not received the high level of care they need and deserve’.
Legal action for birth injury and maternity negligence
The investigation found that there have been 201 clinical negligence claims against the trust’s maternity services since 2010. This includes 46 cases where babies were left with permanent brain damage, 18 cases of cerebral palsy, 19 stillbirths and 15 deaths. While no amount of damages can compensate families for their loss, legal action can result in a recognition that the trust failed to provide adequate care and where a child has suffered a brain injury, damages can provide long term financial security for the whole family involved.
Kay Taylor, a Partner specialising in obstetric claims at CL Medilaw commented:
“It is astonishing that yet again we are hearing about another maternity scandal like Shrewsbury and East Kent and Morecombe Bay before that. The time to ensure the adequate provision of maternity staff and an open investigation and early admission when events do tragically go wrong is long overdue. Parents deserve more”.