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Hudgell Solicitors secures multi-million pound damages settlement for girl left with life-long disabilities after ‘catalogue of errors’ at birth

new born baby holding hand


A health trust has agreed a multi-million pound damages settlement for a teenage girl left with life-long injuries after a catalogue of errors during her mother’s pregnancy led to her being delivered at just 24 weeks.

The girl, now 13, was given just a 10% chance of survival and spent the first seven weeks of her life on breathing support, needing oxygen for more than 100 days.

She survived, but suffered injuries which will prevent her from ever being able to live an independent life and always in need of support and care.

A legal case, led by medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, has now concluded, resulting in a damages settlement being agreed by The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust which could value as much as £8m should the girl live to her full life expectancy.

Pregnancy ‘poorly managed’ and mother not consulted over decision to deliver at just 24 weeks

As part of the legal case it was alleged the Trust failed to manage the mother’s pregnancy appropriately, particularly given she was known to suffer from high blood pressure.

It was alleged that had appropriate medication and care been provided, the pregnancy could have been safely managed to at least 28 weeks.

Independent medical experts, consulted as part of the legal case, said that with another crucial month of development, the girl would likely have been born with no long-term health problems.

Instead, she suffered impaired brain growth, chronic lung disease and has Global Development Delay, a condition that has significantly slowed all areas of her development and learning.

The girl has been assessed as currently having the intellectual function of a five-year-old, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and difficulties with her speech and concentration, struggling to form friendships as a result.

She also has little sense of danger or her own modesty, leaving her vulnerable in society and unable to be left unsupervised at any time.

£2m damages paid and girl could receive a further £6m over lifetime

Following approval of the settlement at the High Court, an initial damages payment of £2m has been paid into a trust to be managed by a professional Court of Protection Deputy, alongside the girl’s parents.

Further annual payments will be made each year of her life to cover an ongoing dedicated case manager to oversee the girl’s many support needs.

It will also cover the costs for her to have 24 hour care when she is older, including providing appropriate accommodation for herself and her carer, as she will be unable to live independently.

Should she live into her mid-80s, as expected, the payments will total around £8m.

Birth injuries solicitor Chris Moore says damages reflects ‘lifelong impact of injuries’

Birth injury claims specialist Chris Moore, of Hudgell Solicitors, said the settlement was reflective of the ‘life-long impact’ the injuries will have on the girl’s life.

He said her mother, who was just 17 at the time, was not fully informed of the consequences of the ‘dangerously early’ emergency birth’, which doctors decided was needed due to her continued high blood pressure.

“This was a poorly managed pregnancy with a catalogue of errors from start to finish which have sadly had life-long consequences for my client and her family,” said Mr Moore.

“There was poor management of her blood pressure throughout her pregnancy. Despite her young age, her high blood pressure was known by all caring for her throughout her pregnancy, yet she was not given any medication to control this, despite many high readings, until she was 23 weeks pregnant.

“Then, when the decision was made to carry out the emergency delivery, it was done so in haste, and with no consideration of the family’s wishes. It was a dangerously early and there were other options. Experts said the levels of medication to control her blood pressure could have been trebled.

“Whilst she was informed of the danger posed should her pre-eclampsia worsen, and that both she and her baby could be at risk, she was certainly not told of the alternative options, and the huge potential differences to her baby’s health.

“Babies born at that stage are known to at a high risk of death and development disability and it was the opinion of independent experts consulted as part of this case that this girl was delivered at a time when she had little chance of being born without suffering some form of brain damage.

“Such decisions are not to be made solely by medical professionals and mothers and loved ones should be fully informed and consulted when decisions which could be potentially life-changing for all are being made.

“The reality is that the mother of this girl was not given the option to make an informed decision. She, nor her husband or her parents there at the time, were not fully informed about the possible consequences for the baby girl.

“At the time it was presented to her that delivery was the only option as both she and her baby were in danger. The reality, however, was that she was not in any immediate danger and there were other medication options to try extending the pregnancy.

“It was the opinion of independent experts that had the other option been explored and the mother’s blood pressure levels had been treated with appropriate medication for another four weeks, taking the baby to 28 weeks gestation, the girl was likely to have been born injury free.

“This is the kind of decision which a mother and family should never be denied the opportunity of making.”

Mother ‘devastated’ that daughter was denied chance of being born injury free

The girl’s mother, who had studied to work on airline cabin crew but had to give up her career hopes to care full-time for her daughter,  said she felt she had ‘no option’ but to agree to the caesarean section after being rushed from Goodhope Hospital to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

She said: “There was no discussion with myself, my husband or my parents as to whether it would be possible to extend the pregnancy further. I didn’t think there was any choice, and if I had been told of the options I would have not have consented to the caesarean section. We were told she was being born then.

“This was my first child and I would have done anything to reduce the risk of injury and allow her to have a normal life. Had the other option been explained to me I would have taken it as it would have made her more likely to be born without development injuries. This option was something I only found out long afterwards though.

“The plan had always been to manage my pregnancy until at least 28 weeks to give my baby the best possible chance. All of a sudden, having failed to properly control my blood pressure the decision was taken to carry out an emergency birth.

“She survived the birth but then we faced the heart-breaking threat of losing her. I can remember being told by doctors that they thought she had a 10% chance. They had put her at that risk and they gave her no chance of being injury free.

“We only started to find out how different things could have been after seeking legal advice. At first I wanted my treatment looking into because I felt I had been so badly cared for during my pregnancy. Then everything started to become apparent as to how the birth could have been later and the difference that would have made.

“As a family we have been devastated by the impact the errors made have had on our lives as a family, and most importantly on the life of our daughter. They have denied her the chance of an independent life.

“It broke me to know that this was something which could have been prevented. I have since had more children, each born at 36 weeks and with no complications despite my high blood pressure, because I was on stronger medication and monitored and treated properly all the way through.

“In some ways the lack of complications in their births have made it harder to accept what happened. It should not have happened and my other children are living proof of that.”

Damages funding carers, new home with annex and lifetime support

The family have already used damages to enlist the support of carers for their daughter, looking after her at the end of school three nights a week, as well as during school holidays.

Longer term, the family has identified a new gated home, with an annexe for the girl to move into as she gets older, giving her some independence whilst her family remain close by.

“We’ve had some very tough years, but as a result of this legal case and the settlement we now feel we can plan forward and we are certainly relieved to know that she’ll always have the support she needs.

“We now have carers who come after school three times a week, and in school holidays, to support us and take some pressure off us as a family. The impact on us all as a family has been huge as our other children have had to accept and understand that although they are younger, most of their parents’ time is spent looking after their sister.

“I have pretty much been alongside her all of my life. Don’t get me wrong, she has a great life because we go out of the way to make it so and to do fun things with her, but it will never be her own life. She’ll always depend on others.

“Thanks to help of Hudgell Solicitors and Chris Moore, who have been superb throughout the case and offered us so much support, we now know that despite always being vulnerable, she will always be protected, supported and cared for. That is very comforting to know.”

 

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18/10/2017 No Comments

‘Hundreds of parents’ may have been wrongly told there were no ashes from baby cremations

woman holding cup


Hundreds of bereaved parents in Hull may have wrongly been informed there were no ashes from the cremations of their children over a 10-year period – resulting in ashes either being kept in storage or scattered without their knowledge, a lawyer supporting families has said.

Andy Petherbridge, of Hudgell Solicitors, has been advising an increasing number of families who were wrongly informed there would be no ashes from cremations of their babies, having either died during pregnancy or being delivered stillborn.

Each has since discovered that ashes were in fact either kept in storage or scattered without their consent.

Court proceedings issued against Hospital Trust

One parent only found out last year – 22 years after her baby died in 1993 – that her baby’s ashes had been scattered at the cemetery the following year. All cremations took place at Chanterlands Avenue Crematorium, which is run by Hull City Council.

Following media coverage in 2013, which first revealed that some ashes could in fact have been retained, many families made their own enquires to discover they had been wrongly informed at the time of the cremations.

Now, Mr Petherbridge says subsequent investigations have revealed that Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust gave out information – both through its staff and then via an advice leaflet – wrongly informing parents there would be no ashes.

As a result, court proceedings have now been issued against the Trust relating to one family, and Mr Petherbridge says similar action is now likely to follow in all other cases.

“Very distressing for families, causing upset, stress and psychological injuries”

“The common theme we have discovered from our investigations is that parents were either told by a representative shortly after the cremations that there would be no ashes due to the size of the babies, or they received a leaflet from the Trust,” said Mr Petherbridge.

“The advice brochure, entitled ‘Precious Moments’, is marked as being produced by the Trust, and inside advises parents that they ‘should be aware, however, that with a baby there will be no ashes left.’

“This has been a sensitive and complicated matter as we are talking about cases which date back as long as 23 years in terms of parents wrongly being informed there would be no ashes following cremations.

“It has obviously been very distressing for many families to suddenly discover the ashes of their babies have been sat in storage, or scattered without their knowledge, and it goes without saying that it has caused upset, stress, and in some cases significant psychological injuries.

“For such mistakes to be made at such a difficult time in parents’ lives is completely inexcusable, as is the fact that the errors happened for so long.

“The families who have come to us for support were given wrong information between 1993 and 2003, and one family only found out they had been wrongly informed more than 20 years after their child had been cremated.

“That leads me to believe we are potentially looking at hundreds of families being given the wrong information over that period of time, which, if proven to be the case, is utterly shocking,”

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14/04/2016 No Comments

NHS right to tell midwives they must listen to expectant mums concerned over health of their babies

pregnant with in home carer


It is positive to see new NHS guidelines being introduced this week in a bid to tackle high stillbirth rates in the UK, with the aim of halving the number of maternal baby deaths by 2030.

It comes on the back of a damning report last year, which claimed more than half of stillbirths in the UK could be avoided if midwives avoided basic errors and acted better on warnings from concerned parents.

That national enquiry, led by the University of Leicester, found more than 60 per cent of stillbirths might have been avoided with better care. Half were found to have occurred after women contacted maternity units because they were fearful that their baby’s movements had slowed, changed or stopped.

NHS figures show that one in every 200 babies is stillborn in the UK, and there is around a 25 per cent variation in stillbirth rates across England.

Midwives must improve checks on babies

Now, in a bid to significantly lower the number of cases, midwives are being told to improve checks on babies in the womb, and to better listen to warnings from expectant mothers, as part of the ‘Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle’.

Information and advice leaflets on reduced foetal movement will also be given to all expectant mothers by week 24 of their pregnancy, whilst the new guidelines also stress that more help should be given to ensure women smoking during pregnancy are alerted to the extra risks of stillbirth they face.

It is the first time such guidance has been issued specifically for reducing baby deaths during pregnancy, and it is something we at Hudgell Solicitors welcome.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “NHS maternity care is now the safest it’s ever been, and most mums say they’re cared for brilliantly.

“But that makes it all the more tragic and heart wrenching when for a small number of families something goes terribly wrong.

“We could however cut the chances of this happening if all pregnant mums were encouraged to quit smoking, if proper monitoring takes place during pregnancy, and if maternity providers listen carefully when pregnant women report worries about their baby’s movements.”

Many midwives will no doubt be furious at such a suggestion of not listening to mums, and that is understandable. The vast majority of midwives across the country do a tremendous job in ensuring hundreds of thousands of babies safely enter the world every year.

Mothers feel midwives are dismissive of concerns

However, in our work at Hudgell Solicitors, we have supported many mothers who have felt their concerns were too easily dismissed, leading to devastating consequences.

And the fact that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is targeting saving an extra 1,500 lives a year by 2030 is evidence of the need for change.

We see the huge pain and devastation caused when a baby is stillborn, a pain which is only intensified when a family learns their baby could, and should, have been born healthy.

Mum felt she was ignored

A mum whose baby was stillborn and we represented in a compensation claim told us how she felt she was ‘treated like a silly little teenager’ when voicing her concerns, believing midwives ignored her due to her young age.

Despite experiencing reduced movements from her baby on numerous occasions during the final month of her pregnancy, she was repeatedly sent home by antenatal staff, including after suffering a haemorrhage.

The new guidance says more thorough checks should be carried out to check baby growth, which can indicate risk of stillbirth, and is the single largest preventable category.

It also calls for better advice to parents on foetal movement, and stricter protocols to ensure that women who report changes get the right care.

Such measures could have prevented the stillbirth of Samuel Attree, a twin boy who sadly died in his mother’s womb without hospital staff realising, due to errors made when measuring his growth.

Independent medical experts, consulted as part of a birth negligence case, concluded that Samuel had stopped growing at 31 weeks, and that errors had been made when measurements had been taken.

It was only when his mother, Kelly Attree, went in to hospital to be induced at 37 weeks that it was discovered Samuel had died a week earlier.

The hospital Trust involved eventually agreed to pay Mrs Attree a five-figure compensation settlement for her loss and suffering, but that is of little comfort to Mrs Attree and her family.

The Trust never accepted any liability for the death throughout the case, and only offered an apology when details of the errors made reached the media.

NHS must admit mistakes and learn lessons

It is this stance from the NHS which we see far too often. A reluctance to accept the blame, and fully investigate matters when things have clearly gone wrong, can only prevent valuable lessons being learned.

Our birth negligence specialists are highly-experienced in dealing with such sad cases, and we see first-hand the devastation caused by the stillbirth of a baby, and the long-term emotional and psychological suffering that more often than not comes with such a life-changing event.

We hope that the publication of these reports, and new guidelines, lead to change and improvement, and that less families go through the trauma of losing a baby which should have been born healthy.

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23/03/2016 No Comments

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