Avoidable Incidents At NHS Hospitals Raise Questions Over Deaths In Childbirth


The Law Of... questioning negligent healthcare

Tragic childbirth deaths at both the Pennine Acute NHS trust in Manchester and Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock have raised questions over standards and practices in UK hospitals.

Avoidable Childbirth Deaths At Multiple UK Hospitals Raises Questions Over Maternity Care

At the Pennine Acute trust, a secret medical review showed that poor decisions were being made and that staff had a distinct lack of compassion for patients. The report was only placed in the public domain after a freedom of information request discovered the internal review, which it is claimed that the trust tried to suppress and ignore.

At Crosshouse Hospital, there have been six cases of apparent 'avoidable deaths' among new-born babies in the last 8 years.

Responding to the tragic stories, Daxa Patel – Partner in Medical Negligence – explains how these incidents of neglect and malpractice are sadly not isolated events.

Do Trusts Have To Publish Reports?

The report from the Pennine Acute NHS trust, which found that staff shortages, bad attitudes, and a lack of compassion all contributed to a series of deaths in hospitals across Manchester; this included a baby who died because antenatal staff failed to spot its mother's blood type.

The review that highlighted these serious failings was first commissioned in February 2016, but have only just came to light after the Manchester Evening News had to enter in to a four-month Freedom of Information battle to try and obtain the report.

It is claimed that the trust tried to stop the report from entering the public domain, by denying its existence.

Focusing on maternity care offered at hospitals operated by the Pennine Acute trust, the review is said to have been commissioned after the trust received more legal claims and paid out more in compensation that any other in England and Wales between 2010 and 2015; most of these claims related to mothers and their babies.

Some of the worst incidents included in the report were:

  • A premature baby who was left in a sluice room to die alone
  • A mother who died of a catastrophic haemorrhage after her symptoms were misdiagnosed and staff thought she had mental health problems
  • A baby who died because staff did not identify their mother's rare blood type

Despite the shocking nature of the report, the trust did not have any obligation to alert the wider public of the findings, however withholding the documentation after repeated freedom of information requests suggests that the trust did not want this information to come to light.

What Are 'Avoidable Deaths'?

The internal review of the Pennine Acute trust highlighted a number of avoidable baby deaths; somewhat shockingly, this is not the only story of negligent maternity care that has been published in recent weeks.

After a number of baby deaths during childbirth at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock, parents have called for a public inquiry into the circumstances that led to their baby's deaths.

It is claimed that there have been at least six cases of so-called 'avoidable deaths' at the same hospital in the last eight years.

The hospital's trusts – NHS Ayrshire and Arran – faced similar criticisms as the Pennine Acute trust after the health board withheld more than 50 reports on serious adverse incidents.

Serious adverse event reviews are usually carried out in the aftermath of Never Events, or if negligence or malpractice causes direct and unnecessary harm to patients and a patient decides to pursue a claim for medical negligence.

Parents of the babies who died during childbirth at Crosshouse Hospital are calling for a public inquiry as a serious adverse event review was not undertaken after their experience, which meant that – while they had received an apology from the NHS trust – they had not received full answers as to why their child died.

'Avoidable deaths', such as those reported at both Crosshouse Hospital and the Pennine Acute NHS trust, are incidents where harm is caused to baby during childbirth, most commonly they are associated with a lack of oxygen.

Responding to the news of failings at both the Pennine Acute NHS trust and Crosshouse Hospital, Daxa said:

"The news of failings at both the Pennine Acute trust and Crosshouse Hospital is deeply distressing, but unfortunately we come across incidents of neglect and malpractice involving poor care of mothers and babies in maternity units more often than we should."

"We see many cases involving hypoxia, still birth, and a failure to treat a mother's condition with sensitivity, especially if they have pre-existing conditions; for example if the mother is diabetic specialist care is required during the pregnancy."

"Ultimately, both of these stories sadly highlight the circumstances surrounding a baby's needless and avoidable death."

"We deal with many incidents of wrongful birth injury claims and still birth claims where, but for the failure of those concerned, the tragedy could have been avoided."

"Questions have to be asked as to what measures can be put in place to avoid the incidents happening in the first place, especially as negligence incidents resulting in claims against health authorities are on the rise."

"No amount of compensation can compensate a family for the loss of their child and ultimately strong safeguarding measures are required to avoid what appear to be incidents that should never have happened in the first place."

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