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World CP Day: judge approves liability settlement in catastrophic case

Paul McNeil
To mark World CP Day this October 6th, Paul McNeil, head of the Personal Injury and Medical Negligence team, discusses a current case whereby a baby was severely injured by the negligence of a midwife who had previously been banned from working.

The young girl lives with severe cerebral palsy following a delay in delivering her despite her mother showing clear signs of placental abruption and pathological CTGs not being acted upon by two midwives and a registrar.

In March 2017, the child's mother was admitted to the labour ward at Newham General hospital, having already come to the hospital four times previously with concerns about reduced foetal movement and her own pain. She had been sent home on all occasions.

Over the course of the labour, the midwife on duty continually misread suspicious and then pathological CTGs, marking them as normal; entered notes that the mother was comfortable when she was in considerable pain and distress; and did not react to blood stained liquor, a sign of placental problems.

There were also several risk factors that should have been identified and acted upon by the medical team, including: a long latent labour phase, a history of reduced fetal movement, the mother's severe abdominal pain, a raised maternal heart rate.

When eventually the child was delivered by emergency caesarean, she was in poor condition and had suffered injury to her brain.

What makes this negligence even worse is that the midwife in charge of the delivery was at the time banned from working in the labour ward of the hospital and indeed across the whole of the Bart's Trust because of a similar incident eight months earlier whereby another baby was also severely brain injured.

Following this first incident, the midwife was instructed to undergo CTG training, which she failed. She had been banned from working because of serious concerns over her competency. Despite all this, she was somehow booked to work on the days in March 2017 by the agency servicing the hospital and by the hospital itself.

At a hearing last week, the high court judge approved settlement based on 85% of the claim, which will now be quantified. The family will receive immediate interim payments to help fund desperately needed care and support for the child who needs 24-hour care. She is blind, cannot mobilise, cannot eat solid food and wakes up regularly during the night. The parents have since had another daughter.

Following the hearing, the family said: "This was our first pregnancy and we made the mistake of trusting the hospital, believing they would keep us safe. Four lives have been ruined – mine, my wife's, our daughter's and her sister's. Before this happened, I didn't understand disability. Now, whenever I see parents with a disabled child, I stop. If speaking out today means no other family has to go through the pain we do, I'm honoured to have helped."

Paul also said: "The catastrophic injuries suffered by this child were totally avoidable. The midwife involved was reported to the Nursing and Midwifery Council as a result of her omissions in the basic care to the mother and child.

"The Trust had already banned her from the labour ward and she should not even have been present, let alone caring for a mother who was in a high risk situation. The banning order was made because the midwife had been similarly careless in relation to earlier pregnancy. It is far from clear whether the parents of the other child are aware of the conduct of the midwife in the present case. In my opinion steps should be taken to inform these parents. Lessons need to be learned so that similar life changing catastrophes can be avoided."

While the team continues to push for the highest possible awards on behalf of clients with cerebral palsy, we also continue to highlight unacceptable and catastrophic failings like those in this case that can be avoided. We continue to lobby for better maternity training across all NHS hospitals to prevent the devastation that ensues when mistakes are made.

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