Luton & Dunstable Hospital apologises to parents after stillbirth

The parents of a stillborn baby girl spoke of their heartbreak after a report revealed hospital doctors failed to take actions that would have saved their baby's life.

Thursday, 23rd March 2017, 9:39 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:51 am
L&D Hospital exteriors
L&D Hospital exteriors

The parents lost their baby daughter Aisha in the early hours of June 23, 2015 at Luton & Dunstable Hospital after suffering a placental abruption (when the placenta becomes detached from the uterus).

Although the senior midwife suspected an abruption, a “communication breakdown” with the consultant obstetrician led to the problem going undetected until too late.

Aisha was at last born at 3.31am with no signs of life.

The hospital investigation report stated: “The consultant, when asked to attend to the woman, raised her hand when the midwife was communicating her concerns. This was seen as a barrier to communication.

“The consultant obstetrician was focused on the diagnosis of maternal sepsis. She did not consider the possibility of impending placental abruption.”

Despite the midwife recording the incident in her notes, the consultant and trainee doctor claimed to have “no recollection” of the word ‘abruption’ being used.

In a letter, the hospital trust’s solicitors state: “It is admitted that delivery of the baby should have been effected by 2.25am on June 23, 2015, and had this taken place, on the balance of probability, [she] would have survived.”

The parents have now received a settlement from Luton & Dunstable Hospital Trust.

Further care delivery problems identified in the report include a delayed response to an abnormal CTG and a failure to give general anaesthetic required under the circumstances.

The baby’s father stated: “We were badly let down by the consultant that day.

“Notwithstanding the breakdown of communication, there was enough time to take my wife to theatre, and then there’s this failure to give anaesthetic.

“At the time you think, ‘they’re the medical professionals’, you give them the benefit of the doubt and you see it as one of those things.

“But then months later this report comes out, and your world is turned upside down.

“My main concern was for my wife. She and I are still deeply upset.”

The couple, who have since had another child, were represented by medical negligence lawyer Tim Deeming of Slater and Gordon UK.

Mr Deeming said: “We got medical records together and independent analysis which was supportive of the fact there were failures of care from the early hours and thereafter.

“These delays were not just a matter of minutes, but hours.

“Even in the delivery situation they were still giving a top-up epidural when a general anaesthetic was needed. There was an escalating and ongoing catalogue of failures.

“Fortunately, they were forthcoming in admitting liability.

“There was an element that was good in that at least the hospital accepted that things had gone wrong.”

The obstetrician involved in the stillbirth has already moved to another hospital.

Mr Deeming said: “In one perspective, yes it’s comforting for the family to know there’s liability, but where is the corporate acknowledgement from the individual to say, ‘we’ve had the training, we’ve had the risk assessments’. We don’t have that clarification.

“Clearly, that raises concerns that this is just a tacit acceptance of legal proceedings and not demonstrative of a wider understanding and learning.”

Although the hospital has admitted liability, a formal apology signed by Luton & Dunstable Hospital’s chief executive Pauline Philip was only sent to the couple yesterday after enquiries were made by the Herald & Post.

A hospital spokesman said: “The Luton and Dunstable University Hospital would like to offer its sincere and unreserved apologies for the events that led to the stillbirth of baby Aisha on June 23, 2015.

“The outcome of the investigation commissioned by the Chief Executive in June 2015 has been shared with [the couple] and the Trust would like to assure the family that lessons have been learnt and that the recommendations from the investigation have now been fully implemented.

“The head of midwifery and the clinical director for obstetrics and gynaecology have been in contact with [the couple] throughout the investigative process and have given their unreserved apology that Aisha’s mother did not receive the standard of maternity care she should have received.

“The chief executive has recently written to [the couple] giving her sincere and personal apology.”

Baby Aisha’s father intends to raise the matter with MP Gavin Shuker. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] for those wishing to see the hospital report.