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Mother calls for hospitals to learn from the tragic and avoidable stillbirth of baby boy
The mother of a baby boy who was stillborn after signs of pre-eclampsia were not acted upon at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has called for the NHS to learn lessons from the tragedy.
Baby Toby Feasey would have survived if a further routine laboratory check had been requested by a midwife when an antenatal dipstick test at 35 weeks revealed significantly raised protein levels in his mother Jenny’s urine, a key symptom of pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a condition which occurs during pregnancy and can be extremely dangerous to both the unborn baby and their mother. The laboratory analysis of the urine sample would have triggered involvement from an obstetrician and careful monitoring of both Jenny and Toby with frequent growth scans. This would have enabled doctors to put plans in place to deliver Toby before the pregnancy became too risky for him.
Jenny, of Heysham, had a family history of pre-eclampsia with her own mother suffering with the condition when pregnant with her sister. This should also have raised concerns and prompted treatment with Aspirin, however, it was inaccurately documented in Jenny’s notes that it was her grandmother who had pre-eclampsia and not her mother.
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay has now admitted that its negligence caused Toby’s stillbirth on 6 January 2017 at Royal Lancaster Infirmary, after Jenny and her husband Daniel were helped to challenge the failures with the help of specialists in clinical negligence at law firm JMW.
Jenny and Daniel have gone on to have children Harper, two and Orion, six months. Jenny feels that the standard of care provided during both of these pregnancies at Lancaster Infirmary was excellent, with thorough assessments and notes taken, as well as swift action to deliver Harper by caesarean section when her heart rate dropped to a worrying level at 35 weeks. However, she feels that the issues with NHS maternity services nationally mean it is vital that the health service learns lessons from every avoidable death of a baby and that every midwife has good awareness of the signs of pre-eclampsia and what they need to do.
Jenny, 33, commented: “Daniel and I had been trying for a baby for a couple of years before I fell pregnant with Toby so we were beyond thrilled to finally be expecting. Looking back there were signs that something was not right even before the protein was found in the urine sample at 35 weeks. At times I had high blood pressure and I also suffered with severe headaches and vision problems, which were investigated with an MRI scan. These are symptoms of pre-eclampsia yet no one put the pieces together.
“The good care I received during my pregnancies with Harper and Orion make it even more apparent that Toby would be here if he had been afforded the same standard. That’s absolutely heart-breaking and while nothing can be done to bring him back I would like lessons to be learned on a national level so that other families don’t have to go through what we have.”
Lucy Mellor, a specialist clinical negligence solicitor who is representing Jenny and Daniel in their case against University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said that she had been appalled by the failure of the midwife to request a routine investigation of the high level of protein in Jenny’s urine and to appreciate its significance. Lucy commented: “Pre-eclampsia is one of the most well-known complications of pregnancy and, although thankfully uncommon, requires urgent and careful management. The risks to both mother and baby are well documented and there are clear guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence that, if followed, will ensure that both mother and baby remain safe. It is difficult to understand how such basic mistakes can be made in circumstances where lives are at risk. Jenny’s case serves to highlight just how much some maternity services have to improve before safety levels are high enough.
“This was an avoidable tragedy and the impact that the loss of a child has on the whole family can never be underestimated. Jenny and Daniel have conducted themselves with great dignity throughout this case and their primary objective is to ensure that lessons are learned.”
As well as the severe headaches and vision problems, Jenny also experienced bleeding throughout her pregnancy, which had been difficult for her. Every time she attended the midwife or hospital she was very worried and kept asking if everything was OK but was told everything was fine. At one appointment the midwife joked that Jenny was so low risk she could give birth on Morecambe Bay surrounded by swans if she wanted to.
However, the tragic events started to unfold on 31 December 2016 when she woke up with pain in her back and underneath her ribs. Jenny thought that she might be in labour but had been instructed not to contact the hospital until she had regular contractions.
At 11am the pain was so severe that Jenny called the community midwife office. The on-call midwife who answered asked if her baby had moved and if it was Jenny’s first baby. Jenny was advised that Toby was ‘just a big baby’ and told to take paracetamol every four hours to see if the pain subsided, which it did.
On 5 January 2017 Jenny attended a routine appointment with her midwife who found that her abdomen was much smaller than it had been two weeks previously. They were also unable to find Toby’s heartbeat. Jenny was referred to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary where it was tragically confirmed that Toby had died. Jenny was induced to deliver Toby and a post-mortem later revealed that he had stopped growing, which made no sense to Jenny as she had been told all along to expect a big baby.
Jenny added: “I feel there were many chances for someone to intervene and save Toby and I just want to try and ensure no other babies are lost in such avoidable circumstances.”
Notes to editors:
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JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.
JMW’s Clinical Negligence team is headed up by leading clinical negligence lawyer, Eddie Jones. For more than a decade he and his team have advised and represented thousands of victims of clinical negligence, and their relatives, and have obtained over £100 million in compensation for their clients, as well as providing the answers as to why their medical treatment has gone wrong.