A COUPLE were paid a significant compensation settlement by hospital bosses after their son was delivered stillborn – as it was accepted he could have been saved had they performed an emergency caesarean section earlier.
David and Tracey Church, of Pickering, North Yorkshire, lost their son Lewis during a traumatic birth at Scarborough General Hospital, during which Tracey needed three blood transfusions and suffered acute kidney failure.
Mrs Church, 34 at the time, had been rushed to hospital by ambulance after suffering a haemorrhage at home, bleeding heavily.
However, it was only when she was violently sick and doctors lost all trace of her baby’s heart on monitors – three hours after her admission – that she was rushed for the emergency delivery.
Lewis was sadly delivered stillborn, and York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, has since admitted he could have been saved had they intervened earlier.
Following representation by Neil Hudgell Solicitors, the couple were paid a significant settlement to compensate for their psychological suffering as a result of losing their only child.
A serious incident report by the hospital revealed that despite blood samples being taken shortly after Mrs Church was admitted, they were not checked by a health professional due to an alleged ‘medical emergency’ on the ward.
Despite CTG recordings of the baby’s heartbeat also being taken, they were not continuous, and no further action was taken by midwives.
Nicola Evans, the solicitor who represented Mr and Mrs Church, of Neil Hudgell Solicitors, said: “The hospital’s own serious incident report showed a number of failings in the care for Mrs Church during her labour, which sadly ended with the couple losing their baby boy.
“Mistakes included a failure to check blood results, which given Mrs Church had already been haemorrhaging badly, and there was lots of blood on her hospital bed, was particularly shocking, and demonstrates a poor level of care.
“They also admitted they should have taken action much quicker in terms of performing the emergency caesarean section, and that this could have saved Lewis.
“Obviously, both Mr and Mrs Church suffered significant psychological harm from the traumatic events of that night, and for the rest of their lives given the loss of the child they had long craved for.
“They have wanted to tell their story as they feel the concerns of patients are too often not being listened to by hospital staff. Unfortunately, as clinical negligence specialists, we see this all too often.”
For Lewis’ devastated parents, it has been a long and difficult three years since they lost him in October 2011. Today, they talk to Lewis as if he is still here with them, as they do a teddy they had bought for him during Tracey’s pregnancy.
They have decided to share their story after recent reports of a second case at the same hospital, just a year earlier, in which another couple lost their baby after staff missed vital signs their daughter was struggling while in the womb.
The Trust admitted it failed to monitor the heath of Wendy Pratt’s baby daughter after her 20 week scan revealed her to be smaller than expected.
Concerned by her baby’s lack of movements, Mrs Pratt saw three different consultants at Scarborough Hospital before being transferred to Leeds General Infirmary, where the baby’s heart dropped as Mrs Pratt was prepared for an emergency C-section.
Her baby girl, Matilda was delivered by emergency caesarean but could not be resuscitated, and like Mr and Mrs Church’s case, York Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust admitted its mistakes and paid an undisclosed compensation settlement.
“Both cases are very similar. Parents have lost their first-born child because doctors and nurses have been too arrogant to listen to their patients over their concerns,” added Mr Church.
“When Tracey was admitted to hospital she was very ill. She had lost a lot of blood and was very very weak.
“My mother was with me and she was warning the nurses that they needed to act much quicker, as Tracey was in a bad way. There was blood everywhere and she kept feeling very sick. It was obvious that the baby was going to be in distress.
“We could see the baby’s heart rate keep dropping on the monitor which they had strapped Tracey too, and I kept asking if everything was ok, but there didn’t seem to be any major worry or hurry from the medical staff.
“We have since found out that blood samples which had been taken were not even checked. They said it was due to an emergency, but I had concerns over a lack of communication during the shift change.
“When I heard of another couple being paid compensation for the loss of their baby at the same hospital I couldn’t believe it. We know hospitals are stretched, but it shows that lessons are simply not being learned. The price people are paying is the loss of their precious babies.”
David and Tracey had long tried for children, and had started a course of IVF treatment when Tracey actually became pregnant naturally.
“It was like a dream come true for us, as we had tried for so long, and then to become pregnant naturally was amazing,” added Mr Church.
“Tracey had a great pregnancy until that night when we lost Lewis. She had suffered a little bit of back pain, but that was to be expected as she was full term.
“We lost our world in a matter of hours, and to know it could, and should have been different, and that Lewis could be with us now had the so-called medical experts not made mistakes, is very hard.”
The couple used some of their compensation settlement to give them a new focus, opening their own gift shop in nearby seaside town Scarborough, called “Starbuys”, as they always refer to Lewis as their little star.
Now they are again trying for a baby, and having yet to conceive are again considering IVF treatment, for which they may use the rest of their compensation settlement to pay for.
“We’ll never ever forget Lewis. We have always wanted children and we have to believe it will happen for us again,” added David.
“We’ve wanted to tell our story as we don’t want others to find themselves in the same position as us. If you feel something is wrong, don’t let doctors tell you otherwise. Be stronger and insist more checks are done.
“In terms of the medical profession, I’d like to see them start listening and stop dismissing patients’ concerns. Yes, it may take an extra 10 minutes to do the extra checks, and it may be a waste of time. But on many occasions the patients and their families know themselves better than anyone else.
“Losing a precious life, simply through not listening to the patient, is totally unacceptable.
“We can’t thank Nicola at Neil Hudgell’s enough though. She was supportive throughout and whilst we were going through very difficult times, she allowed us to focus on one another whilst acting in our best interests, from legal advice and representation to supporting us with offers of psychiatric treatment.
“During those very difficult days it was good to feel that someone understood us and was there for us. You need that support.”
In a statement issued to the media, a spokesperson for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “The sad events described by Mr and Mrs Church were investigated at the time by Scarborough Hospital in the period before it became part of York Trust.
“York Trust recognises the seriousness of this incident and is profoundly sorry that the Church family was let down in this way.
“The report produced in late 2011 highlighted essential areas for learning and improvement to practice, including the interpretation of key monitoring tests and communications issues in the department.
“As a result of this incident changes were made both in training and in handover practices. However, these areas are being revisited as part of ensuring that the care provided to expectant mothers is safe, consistent and personal wherever their baby is delivered.”