A number of “avoidable” medical errors contributed to the deaths of eight pregnant women during Britain’s first swine flu outbreak, a report has found.
The Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries, Britain's leading clinical body for the investigation of maternal death, found that there were delays in admitting the mothers-to-be to hospital, delays in testing for and confirming swine flu, and delays in giving them antiviral drugs.
The report, leaked on the website PoliticsHome, also pointed out that none of the women had had an annual flu jab.
Although that would not have protected them from swine flu at the time it might explain why in the most recent outbreak pregnant women have been affected – even though swine flu was covered by this year vaccination.
A source within the centre said that it was vital that the Government learned the lessons and pointed out that there had been no specific publicity campaign telling pregnant women of the importance of being immunised.
Yesterday the Government moved to address the shortage of swine flu vaccine in some parts of the country this winter by announcing that doctors' surgeries which have run out will be able to order supplies over the internet. At least 50 people have died from flu since the start of October.
The study covered eight out of 12 pregnant women who died after contracting swine flu between April 2009 and January 2010. It found that in seven of the eight cases, there was an "avoidable delay" in the administration of Tamiflu. In some cases, the possibility that swine flu was the cause of illness was "actively discarded" by clinicians. In two cases, the wrong types of swabs were inititally used to test for flu.
Two of the eight babies covered by the study died, six were left without a mother. All of the women died after giving birth. The average age of those who died was 28.