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Government promise to improve midwife/mother relationship can't come soon enough

Arti Shah
13/04/2018
Just weeks before I finally settled a long drawn-out and tragic baby death case, the Health and Social Care Secretary announced an important maternity initiative that will hopefully reduce the number of similar cases in the future.

Jeremy Hunt announced in March that by this time next year, a fifth of pregnant women under NHS care will be allocated a dedicated midwife, progressing to all pregnant women by 2021.

At the moment, most women see a different midwife at each antenatal consultation and at the birth. The hope is that continuity of care by the same midwife throughout pregnancy will reduce stillbirths, miscarriages and neonatal deaths.

Mr Hunt's promise is backed up by Government pledge to increase the number of midwives in training by 25 per cent and a new pay deal for NHS staff including midwives – all of which can't come soon enough, considering the strain NHS maternity services have been suffering in recent years.

I have just settled the tragic case of Sebastian Harrold, who was born with severe brain injury at Nottingham City Hospital in November 2015 and sadly died in January 2016.

At the inquest in February 2017, the coroner delivered a narrative verdict, commenting that had Sebastian been delivered earlier, he would likely have avoided the final period of severe hypoxia and would have likely have been born healthy. She also concluded that it was this brain injury that made him susceptible to infection that caused his death.

In addition, Sebastian's mother repeatedly voiced her concern about the ongoing administration of Syntocinon. Already worried about Sebastian's decreasing heart rate, Stephanie was adamant she did not want to be given the drug used to speed up labour. Doctors ignored her wishes and administered Syntocinon for several hours.

Despite continually telling midwives and doctors in the labour suite that she could not feel Sebastian moving, they refused her pleas for a caesarean, and despite Sebastian's heart rate clearly decelerating during contractions. After 12 hours, Stephanie was finally rushed into theatre for an emergency c-section but Sebastian was still born and had to be resuscitated.

He was taken into intensive care and kept in hospital for a month, suffering from fits. Doctors warned Stephanie and Jon that it was unlikely their baby would survive. In January, the Harrolds brought Sebastian home, where he died from infection.

Reading Jeremy Hunt's comments in the paper while dealing with this devastating case was extremely difficult. It could have been that if Stephanie had been given the chance to build a relationship with one midwife who then accompanied her through the birth, there might have been better understanding and better communication between mother and medical professionals that may have led to a better outcome.

It saddens me that a recurring theme in so many cases like these arises as a result of lack of continuity of care. With a dedicated midwife, there will be a greater understanding of an individual's needs and concerns, and hopefully, will avoid cases like Sebastian's.

Read more about birth injuries by clicking here.

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