Midwife failures leave baby brain damaged - over £7 million 

Luke, eight

A catalogue of errors by midwives during Luke’s birth meant signs that he was in distress were not acted on and he was starved of oxygen. Luke suffered severe brain damage and was later diagnosed with catastrophic cerebral palsy. After Luke’s case was taken on by Olivia Scates one of the cerebral palsy specialists at JMW, he was awarded over £7 million in compensation to cover the cost of caring for his severe disabilities over his lifetime.

Poor monitoring

Laura had a normal pregnancy with her first baby Luke and was booked for midwifery-led care at her local maternity hospital. When her due date arrived she was given a sweep by a community midwife and her contractions started during the night two days later.

Laura thought her waters might have broken so at 2.30am her husband John called the hospital and they were told to come in. Following their arrival, checks on the baby’s heart rate were done. However, between 3.30am and 6.20am there was no record of any more checks of the baby’s heart rate being carried out by midwifery staff.

Failure to supervise

At 6.45am a student midwife took over Laura’s care and the poor monitoring of mother and baby continued. The student was not supervised adequately by the more experienced midwives and mistakes made were not picked up and acted on. The student was not following NHS guidelines for monitoring of the baby’s heart rate meaning signs that he was in distress were missed. 

At 8am Laura was transferred to a room and was experiencing urges to push. In terms of the frequency of her contractions there was a discrepancy between what the student midwife recorded and what was likely to have happened.

At about 8.45am Laura’s blood pressure was elevated. The student midwife discussed this with her supervisor but the more experienced midwife did not check on Laura herself. In fact, the experienced midwives rarely checked on Laura at all and there were long periods where she was left unattended and unmonitored. 

The baby’s heart rate frequently went unchecked however the midwives doctored records to make it appear as if it had. 

Distress

As a result of these failures signs that Luke was in distress were not reported to doctors, who could have taken action to deliver him before his brain was starved of oxygen. 

The fact that the second stage of labour (pushing stage) was taking a much longer time than is normal also did not ring alarm bells. Despite Laura beginning to push at around 9am, Luke was not delivered by the student midwife until 2.51pm. His reserves of oxygen would have been compromised by this and when combined with the failure to monitor his heart rate it was to have catastrophic consequences. 

Luke was floppy and in a very poor condition at birth and had to be resuscitated. He was transferred to the neonatal unit where abnormal movements and seizures were noted. An MRI scan carried out three weeks later revealed Luke’s brain had been severely damaged consistent with it being starved of oxygen and he was later diagnosed with catastrophic cerebral palsy.

The parents made a complaint to the hospital, but the trust denied any responsibility and told them that the problems suffered by Luke were “just one of those things.

Successful medical negligence case

After Luke’s parents were put in touch with Olivia Scates, a partner in JMW’s medical negligence team, the hospital trust eventually admitted that the midwives’ failures had led to Luke’s brain damage, which would have been avoided with proper care. He will never be able to live independently, he is completely dependent on others and needs care around the clock. He will require specialist care and equipment for the rest of his life.  Olivia negotiated a compensation settlement of over £7 million to cover the cost of this. 

 



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