Medical Negligence

Hospital Trust admits errors led to baby being stillborn as midwives sent mum home despite drops in heartbeat

Laura and family

Helena Wood

Associate and Chartered Legal Executive

7 min read time
14 Dec 2017

A Hospital Trust has issued a full apology to a mother whose much-longed for baby boy was stillborn after midwives sent her home twice – despite her high blood pressure and monitoring showing dips in her baby’s heartbeat.

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust admitted midwives should have taken action and chosen to deliver her baby by Caesarean section. Instead they sent her home.

Laura Tate, 35, already had four daughters and was over the moon to find out she was expecting a baby boy, but began to suffer from high blood pressure towards the end of her pregnancy.

The Hull mum was admitted to Hull Women and Children’s Hospital to be induced on April 6, 2014, but was sent home and told to come back in five days as the attempt failed to bring on the labour.

She returned on April 11 and was kept in hospital for two days, during which time midwives twice recorded dips in her baby’s heart rate. Despite this she was again sent home on April 13.

Mrs Tate was again admitted to hospital at 7.35pm on April 15 after her waters broke at home, and was noted to be in a very “agitated and distressed” state.

She says she knew at that point that “something wasn’t right”, but felt midwives were not listening to her.

Just an hour later, her son, Khalifa, was stillborn.

Trust offers apology and admits errors of midwives which led to stillbirth

Now, following legal action through Hudgell Solicitors, Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust has admitted it breached its duty of care to Mrs Tate, agreeing to pay a damages settlement as well as offering a full apology.

It admitted staff failed to give sufficient regard to the baby’s heart rate readings; that they were negligent in discharging Mrs Tate on April 13, after the dips in heart rate had been recorded; and that they failed to deliver the baby by Caesarean section on either April 12 or 13, 2014.

The Trust admitted that if it wasn’t these errors, Mrs Tate would not have suffered the stillbirth of her son.

Mrs Tate, of Blisland Close, Hull, said she was heartbroken to find her son’s recorded cause of death was ‘unknown’, and indicated that he had died in the days before he was stillborn– as all that time she had been in and out of hospital and in the care of the midwives.

Contributory factors were listed including a knot in his umbilical cord and a positive test for Group B Streptococcus (GBS or group B Strep) which is a normal bacterium which is carried by 20-40 per cent of adults but can become dangerous when passed from pregnant mother to baby. It also stated he was ‘macerated grade 2’.

 “When I looked that up online I found that it meant he had died between two to seven days before, so I was in and out of hospital all of that time,” she added.

“It’s heart-breaking to think that if somebody had just done their job properly then I would not have lost my son.”

“I still don’t really feel I know why he died. There was no main cause of death, and I was told different things by doctors and nurses. I blamed myself at the time and I still blame myself. I am angry at myself because I knew something wasn’t right and I am angry that I didn’t push harder. But you put your trust in the staff that they know what they’re doing.”

Speaking about the third and final time she was admitted, she said; “I was really poorly, shivering and feeling hot and cold, and I was very agitated. As soon as I started pushing he was born, there was no pain, it was very quick. At that stage there was no indication anything was wrong.

“I was giving birth leant against the bed, I remember being leant there thinking ‘I haven’t heard him cry’ and I put my head up and all these doctors and nurses were in the room. I said ‘what’s up with him, why isn’t he crying?’ and the midwife said it would be fine, and said to me ‘let’s get you sorted’.

“I felt so poorly, shivering, and I needed oxygen. I couldn’t really get to grips with what was going on. The next thing I knew, the doctor said to me ‘there’s nothing more we can do’. It was a complete shock.”

“I kept him with me for a couple of days afterwards. It was a very strange time as my maternal instincts kicked in, and I would feel his cold cheek and pull his hat further down, then I’d say to myself ‘why do you keep doing that, you know he’s going to be cold’. They kept me in the labour ward and it wasn’t nice hearing all the other women in labour with their babies.”

Loss of baby has caused severe depression and had big impact on family life

Adding to the heartache, the mum of four daughters, aged 18, 14, 13 and 11, said that her and her husband, who have split up due to the strain of losing their son, had been so excited about having a boy.

Mrs Tate added: “I really wanted a boy even from when I was pregnant with my eldest. I always wanted a little boy and that made it that bit harder, because I finally had what I wanted.”

Mrs Tate suffered severe depression after losing her son, and has been prescribed several different types of medication before finding one that has helped.

She did not return to her former job in a fish and chip shop, and said she lost all interest in leaving the house or seeing anyone. She also developed anxiety in thinking something terrible would happen to her other children.

She said: “I have just gone back to work as a home carer, something completely different to before. I still have bad days but not like I was. That’s due to the medication though.

“Me and my husband have had a really hard time, and we need to help ourselves before we can help each other, it’s going to be a much longer process for us, but the girls are doing really well and I make sure they talk about their brother all the time, I don’t want them to see it just as a sad thing all the time, so I try to keep it as positive as I can.”

‘Poor decisions made by midwives as monitoring suggested Caesarean birth was required’

Sarah Daysley, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented Mrs Tate in legal action.

She said: “The mistakes made in this case are unforgivable. There had been increasing signs of distress as Mrs Tate had suffered high blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate had twice been recorded as having dropped.

“These were the signs which midwives should have realised required intervention.

“Instead, Mrs Tate was not even kept in hospital for close observation and was sent home when midwives should have been delivering her baby. Lessons must be learned from this case as the monitoring had been done, but the concerns raised by that, and by Mrs Tate herself, were ignored.”

Speaking about the legal case Mrs Tate added: “This is the best outcome I could have hoped for, the fact that they owned up to it does help. It helps to know they have admitted it was their fault.

“Since I lost him, I had heard lots of people who have been through the same thing, and I am so glad I contacted the solicitors when a friend suggested it to me. At the time you’re not thinking straight and I was lucky I had people to speak up for me, but not everyone does. It’s awful to think of hospitals around the country making similar mistakes which are costing lives.

“Now, when friends of mine are giving birth, I tell them to question everything, but we really shouldn’t have to.”

Through her legal claim through Hudgell Solicitors and as part of her ongoing recovery, Mrs Tate has been referred for counselling by a consultant clinical psychologist.

Related News:

Hull Daily Mail 

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Hospital Trust admits errors led to baby being stillborn as midwives sent mum home despite drops in heartbeat

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