Baby death raises questions over maternity care

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21 May, 2021

Leonie Millard

The BBC have reported on a shocking baby death during delivery at the Doncaster Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. A request for information by BBC's Panorama Program raised significant safety concerns.

The mother of Clay Wankiewicz was admitted to Doncaster Infirmary last July. She had a low-risk pregnancy. Her son Clay died shortly after birth from multiple skull fractures.

After a day in labour a junior doctor made two attempts to deliver the infant vaginally with no consultant on site. Forceps were used to pull the baby multiple times.

Having successfully dealt with a similar case, but with an infant that suffered hydrocephalous from excessive pulls with solid forceps, I know the risks involved. In my case the infant survived, but with multiple serious disabilities. Guidelines exist, and there has to be good reason to depart from them. For Clay and his family the multiple attempts to deliver vaginally caused delay, and did not work. The baby had to be pushed back up the birth canal and into the womb to allow a C section to be performed. Sadly, baby Clay died, and what is equally shocking is the belief held by the parents that the hospital sought to record that it was a stillbirth to avoid an Inquest into the death.

A BBC investigation reveals that in 2016 serious patient safety concerns were identified within the maternity services at the Trust. At that stage some of the following issues flagged were;

  • There was a lack of appropriate leadership
  • There were patient safety concerns around the lack of availability of consultants
  • Undermining of staff was evident, mainly but not exclusively within midwifery.

It would appear that the highlighted incident has been borne from the same problems. No lessons have been learned. The cost in failing to address these issues is twofold, both human and financial. The loss to the family is huge, made worse, when it should have been prevented. Supervision and staffing would appear to have played a part in this tragedy. These were problems that the Trust were aware of. The junior doctor was unsupported, and his error has been publicised. Public faith has been diminished and the financial cost to the Trust in the long run will be greater than the cost of removing the risk and getting it right first time.

For more information contact Leonie Millard in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 770517. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Clinical Negligence department here

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