February 5, 2020

RWK Goodman birth injury specialists represent young boy in £23 million action for negligent care to his mother

His claim for £23 million against United Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust was settled and approved by HHJ Lambert at the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday (4 February 2020). The Judge also made an Anonymity Order.

Following the action, RWK Goodman Clinical Negligence Partner Kerstin Scheel – who acted for the boy – has highlighted the need for maternity safety to be a top priority.

She commented:

“It is highly prevalent with the maternity scandals in Wales, Shrewsbury and Kent that maternity safety must be a top priority for some of the most vulnerable patients, the mother and her newborn.”

The boy was born in the autumn of 2013, following the birth of his elder brother at the same hospital in early 2012. During the delivery of his elder brother shoulder dystocia occurred, where the baby’s shoulder becomes impacted on the mother’s pubic bone. This is a serious emergency at the time of birth and the elder brother required resuscitation on delivery.

Despite this event the hospital failed to inform and explain to the mother that shoulder dystocia had occurred, she simply thought it was a difficult delivery. She was therefore unable to advise midwives of this in her further pregnancy which would have automatically resulted in obstetric led care and needed advice on the option of a caesarean birth to avoid this complication occurring again.

During the course of her pregnancy, his mother was referred to an obstetrician as there were concerns this was a very large baby. Late into the pregnancy she was seen by an obstetrician but the notes of her previous delivery (which would have revealed the history of shoulder dystocia) were not available in time for the appointment. There was therefore no discussion as to the risks of a vaginal delivery with the mother so that she could make an informed choice about whether or not to opt for an elective caesarean section.

Miss Scheel explained:

“The mother was induced for a vaginal delivery and indeed, again, shoulder dystocia occurred. Unfortunately this time even standard emergency steps did not allow for the delivery of the baby (as he was so large). There was a panicked situation which was hugely traumatic for both parents. It took 20 minutes to deliver the claimant, by which time his oxygen circulation was so badly compromised that he suffered a period of acute lack of oxygen and significant brain damage. He had no signs of life at birth and required immediate intubation. In addition to his brain injury the brachial plexus nerves in his neck were severely damaged and he developed the most severe form of erb’s palsy and has no use of his right arm.

“The boy was subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He cannot communicate, he is doubly incontinent, he requires a wheelchair and will need 24-hour care for the remainder of his life.”

Miss Scheel added:

“The errors at the Trust which occurred were simple ones of human and systemic error. There was no pro forma checklist requiring the midwives to confirm that they had informed the mother of the complication of shoulder dystocia and provided her with a leaflet regarding the implications for future pregnancies.

“There was then a system error in failing to ensure the consultant had the medical records from the first pregnancy (at the same hospital) available to her when she saw the mother. The consultant then failed to follow this up and ask to review those records once they were available.

“We work very closely with the Erb’s Palsy Group, the only national charity focused upon people with erb’s palsy. We are seeing increasing numbers of clients, like this claimant, who have significant brain injury in addition to their erb’s palsy.

“Such simple and totally avoidable errors have had the most catastrophic consequences for this family, whose lives have been turned upside down by their son suffering such a catastrophic brain injury. It is another reminder that patient safety has to be at the forefront of the operation of the NHS every single day and with every single patient.”

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