Clinical Negligence Article
14 December, 2021
Losing a baby from a still birth is of course a tragic situation to experience in any event. The negligence of medical staff may contribute and, in some cases, be the cause of the unfortunate and heartbreaking situation of losing a baby. A recent case has been settled for £2.8m compensation being paid to the parents of Harriet Hawkins, as failings by the NHS have been found to be the cause of the death of their baby. In this article we look at the facts of this case in further detail.
The parents of Harriett Hawkins brought a clinical negligence claim against Nottingham University Hospitals Foundation Trust, alleging that multiple failings caused the death of their baby girl. The NHS are to pay £2.8m to the parents - the biggest compensation pay-out for a still birth clinical negligence claim.
The case settled outside of court five years after their daughter died. Harriett's mother, Mrs Hawkins, was in labour for six days, however the hospital kept sending her home and told her not to come into hospital. After Mrs Hawkins felt her first contraction on 12 April 2016, she was sent home from Queen's Medical Centre hospital with painkillers. She was told that her contractions were not close enough for her to be admitted, despite collapsing from the extreme pain.
On 16 April 2016, Mrs Hawkins asked to come into hospital for gas and air or an epidural but was refused and the hospital staff stated that her birth was not advanced enough. She was admitted hours later and given diamorphine but wasn't examined and was sent home. The amniotic sac started to bulge through Mrs Hawkins' birth canal in the early hours of the following day, but she was told admissions to the hospital had been stopped because they were understaffed.
After approaching Nottingham City Hospital, she was initially refused to be seen to and was dismissed by a midwife. When Mr & Mrs Hawkins were eventually allowed into the hospital, the baby's heartbeat was undetectable. Mrs Hawkins had been experiencing a dysfunctional labour that required emergency medical attention yet was repeatedly dismissed and ignored by medical staff. She was suffering from fluid retention and was unable to expel urine, preventing the labour from progressing.
Harriett was finally delivered nine hours after she had been pronounced dead in the womb. Bosses at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust, where both parents worked, blamed an infection. However, an independent report identified 13 mistakes leading to the tragic death of baby Harriett. It was considered that the mistakes were almost certainly preventable.
Harriett's parents were so traumatised that they have had to leave Nottingham and neither of them are able to return to work due to ongoing depression and PTSD. They were not able to be near the hospital after the tragic experience and moved to London.
A 'root cause analysis investigation report' published in 2018 found errors including delays in applying foetal monitoring, omission of important information on an antenatal advice sheet and failure to record or pass on information. The two maternity units are rated inadequate. Investigations into the trust have revealed that dozens of babies and mothers have died or come to harm under its care.
An investigation by Channel 4 News and The Independent this year found 46 babies had suffered brain damage and 19 were stillborn in Nottingham between 2010 and 2020. There have also been 15 deaths of mothers and babies.
If you feel that you have suffered a similar experience with the delivery of your baby or have any queries in light of the above circumstances, we have an experience Clinical Negligence Team at Forbes who can discuss this further.
For more information contact John Bennett in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 872111. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.
Learn more about our Clinical Negligence department here