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Claire Horton comments on Countess of Chester hospital nurse arrest

Like everyone, I'm very distressed to read in the press about the ongoing case of Lucy Letby, the nurse accused of murdering and attempting to murder babies and infants in the neo-natal unit of the Countess of Chester hospital between 2015 and 2016.

My colleague Jenny Urwin and I are both currently running birth injury cases following negligence in the care of mothers and babies at the Countess of Chester hospital. Although neither is connected to Letby, we cannot help but be concerned that fundamental failings in hospital procedures to keep babies safe at the hospital have been ongoing for years.

My case, which is anonymised, involves a teenage girl who has been left profoundly deaf and with serious learning and behavioural difficulties following mismanagement of her mother's labour in 2001.

She suffered hypoxic ischaemic brain injury at the time of her birth following a delay in recognising the baby was in distress and delivering her promptly. Much of this delay was admitted by the hospital trust as caused by a trainee midwife not responding or properly handling his mother's reported concerns of green discharge, indicative that the baby was in distress.

The trust has promised that guidelines and procedures have since been implemented to prevent a trainee midwife being in the position to cause such catastrophic delay in recognising and communicating when something is clearly wrong during a mother's labour.

The trust admitted that had the correct procedures been followed and the baby had been delivered earlier, she would not have been so badly injured. Tragically, the Letby case suggests that problems in monitoring the actions of staff persisted.

My case proceeds to trial on quantum in July, where we have prepared an overview of the specialist care the child will need for her long life. Hers was a late diagnosis of deafness, meaning that for years, the family did not know what caused her often disruptive behaviour, which caused her to be disturbed at night, waking regularly clearly in distress. Undiagnosed deafness can cause young children to be anti-social, frustrated by their inability to understand and communicate, which translates into disruptive behaviour. 

The effect of the child's behaviour on her mother primarily, who gave up work to care for her, was psychologically extremely difficult and she suffered depression for years. Any settlement will, of course, focus on proving the best care for the child to help her live her best life possible, with the help of the Court of Protection team.

Hopefully, this current investigation into baby deaths at the hospital will provide the parents with much-needed answers as to what happened to cause such tragedy and will finally ensure appropriate and safe care is provided to mothers and babies.

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