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Nottingham University NHS Trust - Inquiry into Maternity Failings has Commenced

On 1st September 2022, an inquiry into the treatment of mothers and babies under the care of maternity units at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust commenced following a number of injuries and deaths of mothers and babies at both Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital.

This included Wynter Sophia Andrews who died in 2019, just 23 minutes after being delivered via Caesarean section at Queen’s Medical Centre from hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (a loss of oxygen flow to the brain), which would likely have been avoided if she was delivered sooner. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has since stated that the Trust will be prosecuted for its failure to provide safe care and treatment to the mother and baby.

In 2016 Sarah Hawkins gave birth to her stillborn daughter Harriet at Nottingham City Hospital. An external inquiry conducted in 2018 identified 13 significant failings in care, including failing to apply appropriate foetal monitoring, failing to take account of the patient’s clinical history and delaying the administration of an epidural.

Concerns over the quality of the Trust’s maternity care were raised in an investigation carried out by The Independent and Channel 4 News in 2021 which found that between 2010-2020, 46 babies suffered brain damage, 19 babies were stillborn and there were a further 15 deaths under the Trust’s care.

A recent report published in 2022 by the CQC rated the Trust’s maternity services as inadequate and found concerns including staffing, a lack of training in key skills and oversight of risk and performance. It stated that ‘significant and immediate improvements’ to the Trust’s maternity service need to be made to ensure the safety of both mothers and their babies.

In light of these findings, calls for an independent review of the Trust’s maternity unit came from 100 families affected by the Trust’s alleged failings of care at both Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital. A report into the Trust’s maternity services will now be carried out by Donna Ockenden, a senior midwife, and is likely to take at least 18 months to complete. It is expected that 450 families will come forward as part of the inquiry amid concerns over the deaths of 30 babies.

Unfortunately, Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust’s maternity units are only the latest in a number of units to be put under investigation for providing sub-standard maternity care.  In March 2022, Mrs Ockenden published a report concerning the maternity care of 1486 families given by Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust between 2000-2019. Uncovering the largest maternity scandal in British history, the Ockenden report found that serious failings of care lead to the deaths of 201 babies, including 131 stillbirths, 70 neonatal deaths and 9 mothers cared for by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

The loss suffered by families as a result of these alleged failures of care is shocking and deeply upsetting. However, it is hoped that the upcoming report into Nottingham’s maternity services will highlight the immediate and essential action which needs to be taken by Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust to improve the safety of mothers and their babies, as well as ensuring that maternity services across the country can learn from previous mistakes and thus reduce the number of avoidable maternal and neonatal deaths in the UK.

Darren White, Head of the Medical Negligence Department at Dunn & Baker Solicitors, has said “unfortunately, I am seeing more cases of avoidable harm to both mothers and babies which can have lifelong, tragic consequences. Lessons need to be learnt from these inquiries urgently to prevent such avoidable incidents”.

If you believe that the care of you or your child prior to, during or after birth was negligent, please contact our Medical Negligence team for a confidential initial discussion and advice.

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