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Hospitals “in crisis” over maternity mistakes and lapses

Thousands of mothers and babies in England were significantly harmed by the lapses of maternity care in the past two years.

Between April 2015 and March 2017 a whopping 276,000 incidents (equivalent to 1 in 5 births) were reported by extremely worried hospital staff. Even though most of them were minor/near misses, almost a quarter of the incidents led to the mother or baby being harmed and unfortunately 288 birth cases there was a death.

Ministers of the hospitals stated that “safety MUST be improved to prevent any harm to the baby or the mother”.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that it was his “top priority to get things back on track” and that “mistakes in maternity care can lead to heart-breaking tragedies for mothers and babies and their families too.” However, he did mention how it was encouraging that hospitals were being honest as that would help prevent problems.

The Childbirth Charity NCT (National Childbirth Trust) said the extreme figures suggested maternity care was “in crisis”.

Statistics show that the mistakes reported in England between April 2015 and March 2017 was:-


63,380 of them resulted in harm to mother or baby

288 of them resulted in death

132 trusts reported their mistakes.

The potential lapses logged include everything from short delays getting medication or records not being completed properly to babies being deprived of oxygen and life-threatening complications not being diagnosed.

A heartbroken mother, Wendy Agius, was already past her due date in June 2014 when she became concerned that the baby was not moving.

Over the next two days Wendy, 33, and her husband Ryan, 37, made repeated calls to the local maternity unit – a midwifery-led unit in Eastbourne – as well as making three visits.

Each time they were told everything was fine, even after she collapsed.

When they returned the fourth time, no heart beat could be found. Their daughter, unfortunately, had died.

“it was devastating” said Wendy. “They just kept sending us home. We were treated like an inconvenience”.

It later emerged on one visit that their baby’s heart rate had been incorrectly recorded and their symptoms should have led to them being invited in more quickly and seen by a consultant at an earlier point, but guidelines were not followed and therefore led to this tragic loss.

Since then, the couple have not been able to get pregnant again.

Of the 63,380 cases that caused harm, nearly 55,000 involved injuries or conditions that required no more than basic first aid. But there were 8,134 cases of more significant harm, including 479 which caused severe harm, such as permanent disability.

There have been problems including:-

  • Delays dealing with woman who have suffered haemorrhages.
  • Babies left brain damaged after being deprived of oxygen during birth
  • Babies at risk of meningitis, blood poisoning and pneumonia due to being not screened for infections
  • Heart rates incorrectly monitored/measured/recorded
  • Delays in emergency C Sections
  • Midwives requesting help from Consultants too late
  • Woman being told to go home despite reporting potentially serious problems

Five mothers and four babies died under the care of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust between 2015 and 2017 and the Trust could “not provide information of what happened due to patient confidentiality”. Also an inquest into the death of another baby in 2014 highlighted major problems at the trust. The baby, died from oxygen starvation. His mother had been transferred after complications developed but there were a series of delays in her getting treatment, including an ambulance crews detour for a toilet break and no doctors or midwives to meet the ambulance on arrival.

Johnathan Steventon-Kiy, specialist Clinical Negligence Lawyer says,

“The Clinical Negligence Team has seen a recent surge in the number of locals making enquiries regarding possible maternity and birth related negligence relating to the Queen Alexandra Hospital. Taking into consideration the damning report of the CQC published on 1 December 2017, it really does seem that this Trust is in a state of crisis and they must address this immediately”.

Johnathan Steventon-Kiy and the Clinical Negligence team at Swain & Co Solicitors regularly win compensation for their clients who have experienced substandard treatment or a failure to provide treatment. If you, a family member or a friend have experienced problems regarding substandard medical treatment contact our team today on 023 92 483322.

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