Mid and South Essex Hospitals “Dismissing” Pregnant Women’s Concerns

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Georgina Emsley

Solicitor, Medical Negligence

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In June 2022, The Independent reported a story about a woman who sadly lost her seventh baby in February 2021 as a result of doctors at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust failing to perform caesarean section at the appropriate time.

A caesarean section (c-section) is an operation intended to deliver a baby via a cut made across and in the stomach and womb. A c-section is considered a major operation that carries a number of risks so typically it is only carried out if it is considered to be the safest option for both the mother and the baby. It is estimated by the NHS that around 1 in 4 pregnant women in the UK will give birth by way of a c-section.

Chyril Hutchinson was admitted to hospital at 37 weeks gestation and was told that due to having hypertension (high blood pressure) she would require a same day c-section. Shortly after this, the decision was made instead that she should be sent home.

Despite voicing her concerns to practitioners, Chyril was told she would need to wait another two weeks for a c-section to be carried out. It was only days later that a scan showed her baby had sadly died.

an ultrasound scan of a baby

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Montgomery vs Lanarkshire Health Board

One of our expert Medical Negligence Solicitors, after reading about Chyril’s case, said:

“We are seeing a pattern of racial injustice in maternity care and this case is just one example of that. In my opinion, Montgomery went some way to ceasing the paternalistic approach doctors have towards women in pregnancy and birth, but the problem of racial bias remains unsolved. The charity Birth Rights is supported by my colleagues and I at Simpson Millar and we would urge people to visit their webpage and read their inquiry into racial injustice in maternity care. While it is too late for the families my law firm represent in these types of cases, we want to ensure that maternity safety at this Trust and the other Hospital Trusts across the board is improved. We need to see evidence of this and not simply a press release stating this is to be done.”

“This is a serious failure in the standard of care which should be routinely provided to women in Chyril’s situation, and I feel for her and her family. What she has gone through is a tragedy and we should not forget that there are humans and families suffering, not simply statistics to analyse when investigating incidents of this nature.”

The case of Montgomery that our solicitor refers to, is the Supreme Court decision known as Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board. This case concerned a mother, Nadine Montgomery, who gave birth on 1 October 1999 at Bellshill Maternity Hospital in Lanarkshire, Scotland. As a result of complications during delivery, her baby was born with serious disabilities which she argued were caused as a result of negligence on behalf of a doctor employed by the Health Board. After considering the issue, the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal.

The Court determined that an adult who is of sound mind should be afforded the opportunity to decide which, if any, of the treatment options available to undergo and the patient’s consent must be obtained before any treatment is given. The decision stated that a doctor is under a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that the patient is aware of any material risks involved in the proposed treatment and of any reasonable alternatives.

During a vaginal birth, the Claimant’s baby suffered shoulder dystocia, which was considered to have been a material risk of performing a c-section, given her existing co-morbidities. Therefore, the doctor should have advised her of this risk to allow her to make an informed decision about how to proceed with the delivery of her baby. The doctor’s failure to appropriately advise of this risk and obtain informed consent led to Mrs Montgomery proceeding with a vaginal birth, which ultimately caused her baby to be severely disabled.

a pregnant woman receiving an ultrasound scan

Was This an Isolated Incident?

Unfortunately, what happened to Chyril was not an isolated incident. A recent investigation revealed that between August 2021 and January 2022, within the maternity units of the Trust’s three hospitals there were 15 serious incidents reported. This included birth injuries, stillbirths and medical errors which led to requirement for hysterectomy or neonatal death.

One incident involved parents whose baby had died following a c-section at Broomfield Hospital. Despite the mother being identified as high risk, the Trust commented that “staff continued to view her as low risk” meaning the baby was not being monitored appropriately and in line with guidance for managing high risk women in labour.

Recommendations for improvements in the provision of care needed within Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, has been highlighted by recent reports from NHS Resolution. In 2020-21, the Trust paid out over £25 million for medical negligence claims in relation to obstetrics.

While the Trust is already recognised as requiring improvement by the Care Quality Commission, we hope the reality of these latest figures will further emphasise the need for urgent and significant change in the standard of care provided to patients in the Trust’s maternity services.

In particular, there remains a significant issue of racial injustice when it comes to maternity care in England. The organisation Birth Rights published a paper entitled ‘Systemic Racism, Not Broken Bodies’ in May 2022. This was a report regarding the year-long inquiry into racial injustice in maternity services.

The inquiry was overseen by an expert panel of obstetricians, midwives, experts by experience, academics and lawyers looking at how systemic racism has impacted the care provided to black, brown and mixed ethnicity women. It allowed the women who make up these statistics to tell their stories and it demonstrated that racism is at the root of inequalities within maternity services, skewing outcomes and experiences for some women.

Some of the findings showed that black, brown and mixed ethnicity women often felt unsafe, ignored and/or disbelieved. They were subjected to racism by care givers and often, dehumanised. They were not afforded the same choices, opportunities to give full informed consent and it was found they were subject to coercion from practitioners, which is in direct contravention of the principles set out in the Montgomery case judgement .

In order to address these issues and attempt to abolish the inequalities in maternal care which sadly in avoidable mortalities, the organisation is demanding urgent and immediate action from all aspects of the maternity care system. This should include the implementations of recommendations made in the report including but not limited to:

  • A commitment to being anti-racist.
  • To decolonise maternity curriculums.
  • To decolonise maternity guidance.
  • To make black, brown and ethnic minority women the decision makers in their care.
  • to make black, brown and ethnic minority women the decision makers in the system.
  • To create safe and inclusive workforce cultures.
  • To dismantle structural barriers to racial equity through a change in national policy.

Should you wish to read the full report prepared by Birth Rights, a copy can be downloaded from their website which can be found here.

a baby's foot

How can a Medical Negligence Lawyer Help?

Taking legal action after suffering medical negligence during pregnancy or in childbirth can feel extremely daunting. We can offer a free assessment where we’ll listen to your concerns and discuss what has happened. They will be able to let you know if you’re likely to be successful in claiming compensation. 

If we’re able to accept instructions for your case and you choose to proceed with the investigations, your case will be assigned one of our expert Medical Negligence Solicitors who will carry out a detailed investigation.

You will be kept updated at every stage of your claim and we can tailor our service to your specific needs and wishes. We aim to reduce the stress involved in what can feel like an overwhelming process and will be transparent about the likely prospects of success, as matters progress.

We will do everything we can to reach settlement outside of Court, exploring options like mediation. For initial advice about your potential claim, please get in touch with our experienced Medical Negligence team today on 0808 239 7307. Alternatively, you can request a call back from one of our friendly and approachable expert team members by clicking here.

Receiving an award of compensation does not reverse the negligent treatment provided to you, your family and/or your baby but it can help you to move on and get closure, in addition to easing financial burdens.

You can contact our Medical Negligence Solicitors, who are specialists in these cases. We will always keep you fully informed and out intention is to guide you through the legal process and aid your recovery, which you deserve.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please do not hesitate to seek support which can be found through several organisations, some of which are listed below:


‘NHS: Urgent Mental Health Helpline’ by NHS (n.d.) ‘Find an urgent mental health helpline’. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-an-urgent-mental-health-helpline (Accessed: 04/12/2023).

(2022). "Racial Injustice." Retrieved from https://www.birthrights.org.uk/campaigns-research/racial-injustice/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

Echo News. (2022). "Mid South Essex Hospitals Probe Serious Maternity Incidents." Retrieved from https://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/20152397.mid-south-essex-hospitals-probe-serious-maternity-incidents/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

NHS Resolution. (2021, September). "FOI_5176_Obstetrics Claims against Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust." Retrieved from https://resolution.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/FOI_5176_Obstetrics-Claims-against-Mid-and-South-Essex-NHS-Foundation-Trust.pdf (Accessed December 5, 2023)

The Independent. (2022). "Woman Who Had Miscarriage Forced to Wait Overnight in A&E for Bed." Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/woman-miscarriage-baby-stillbirth-caesarean-b2089113.html (Accessed December 5, 2023)

(n.d.). "Montgomery and Consent." Retrieved from https://www.birthrights.org.uk/campaigns-research/montgomery-and-consent/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

(2023). "Caesarean Section." Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

Supreme Court UK. (2015). "[Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board]." Retrieved from https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2013-0136.html (Accessed December 5, 2023)

Georgina Emsley

Solicitor, Medical Negligence

Areas of Expertise:
Medical Negligence

Georgina is a Solicitor who works in our Medical Negligence team here at Simpson Millar, based in our Manchester office.

She is a committed and highly reliable Solicitor with a track record of supporting clients through the process of making a claim to achieve the best outcome for them. Georgina has experience working on many high-value cases with a range of circumstances and complexities from start to finish, where she reviews medical records, liaises with experts and gathers evidence in order to negotiate the best possible settlement for her clients.

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