Stillborn baby’s parents receive £2.8m from Nottingham hospital trust
A couple whose child died in the womb after mistakes by maternity staff have received a £2.8m settlement.
Sarah Hawkins was in labour for six days before Harriet was stillborn at Nottingham City Hospital in April 2016.
Hospital bosses initially found “no obvious fault”, but an external inquiry identified 13 failings in care.
Solicitors representing Mrs Hawkins and husband Jack said it was believed to be the largest payout for a stillbirth clinical negligence case.
Mrs Hawkins was nearly 41 weeks’ pregnant when Harriet was delivered, almost nine hours after dying.
The couple were first told their child had died of an infection but refused to accept this and launched their own investigation.
“I believe that this is a cost which was unnecessary and could have been
avoided if NUH had acknowledged responsibility for Harriet’s death straight away
and had been open with Sarah and Jack.”
A Root Cause Analysis Investigation Report published in 2018 concluded the death was “almost certainly preventable”.
The report said errors included a delay in applying appropriate foetal monitoring, the important omission of information on an antenatal advice sheet and a failure to follow the Risk Management Policy for maternity.
It also found failures to record or pass on information correctly, failure to follow correct guidelines and delays in administering the correct treatment.
At the time, both parents both worked for Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS trust but due to the trauma of Harriet’s death, neither felt able to return.
Following the report’s publication, the hospital trust apologised and said major changes would be made.
Mrs Hawkins said: “I couldn’t grieve when [the trust] chose to say Harriet’s death was caused by an infection, rather than their own failures.
“We had to keep Harriet’s body in the mortuary for two years so we could keep her as ‘evidence’.
“Time after time families are contacting us, and every single time I get contacted my heart sinks.”
Mr Hawkins said: “We have had to fight to be heard. We are, at long last, heard.
“As too are many other families, yet sadly because there has been no proper accountability for such a long time now, there are many more yet to come forwards.”
An investigation by Channel 4 News and the Independent earlier this year reported 46 babies had suffered brain damage and 19 were stillborn in Nottingham since 2010.
The BBC found there have been at least seven preventable deaths of babies between 2015 and 2020.
Both maternity services run by NUH have been rated as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Through a freedom of information request, BBC News learned there have been 34 maternity investigations following adverse incidents at NUH since 2018.
Janet Baker, from Switalskis Solicitors, which represented Mr and Mrs Hawkins, said: “£2.8m is the highest damages award in a stillbirth case, with legal fees for both sides the total cost to the NHS is likely to be over £3.5m.
“I believe that this is a cost which was unnecessary and could have been avoided if NUH had acknowledged responsibility for Harriet’s death straight away and had been open with Sarah and Jack.”