Trust apologises over botched birth

An NHS trust apologised to a family today after a baby was left blind in one eye and brain-damaged when hospital medical staff made a catalogue of errors during a routine birth.

Xavier Cutillo's eyeball was detached from its socket and his skull fractured by the misuse of forceps during his delivery at Scunthorpe General Hospital in December last year.

The youngster will never get his sight back in his left eye and his parents, 22-year-old Emma Portogallo and Daniel Cutillo, 23, will have to wait years to see what effect the damage done to his brain will have on his development, according to the family's lawyers, Russell Jones and Walker.

A spokesman for Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said a full investigation and review had been carried out into the incident which led to Xavier's injuries and staff also met the family shortly after the birth to discuss the delivery.

He added: "A number of changes to policy and practice have been implemented to ensure any risk of the circumstances being repeated are minimised. In particular, staff training has been extended and increased in frequency.

"We are extremely sorry for the distress caused to the family and would reiterate that our priority remains the safety of all women and babies at Scunthorpe General Hospital's Maternity Services."

Miss Portogallo was admitted to hospital on December 21, 2009.

She had a long labour and staff made an attempt to deliver the baby by ventouse suction cup. When the first attempt did not work the doctor treating her tried a further seven times to deliver the baby the same way despite advice that no more than three attempts should be made using this method.

When the ventouse method failed again Miss Portogallo was taken from the delivery suite to the operating theatre and given an epidural, but staff did not tell her about what was happening or about any of the associated risks of the procedure.

According to Russell Jones and Walker, Miss Portogallo felt "severe tugging" as doctors tried to deliver her baby using forceps.

When her son was finally delivered his eyeball was hanging out of its socket and resting on his cheek.

Later that day Xavier, who is now nine months old, was admitted to Sheffield Children's Hospital Foundation NHS Trust so emergency surgery could be performed on his eye, where he was also diagnosed with a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.

Describing her experience, Miss Portogallo said: "My son will have to live with the consequences of this for the rest of his life.

"The whole experience has been extremely traumatic for both me and Xavier's father Daniel; we've been left physically and emotionally traumatised.

"We don't know yet if he will ever be able to see out of his left eye and he could also be brain damaged. We have to wait and see.

"Having a baby is meant to be one of the happiest days of your life but for us it was a complete nightmare."

James Bell, a partner at Russell Jones and Walker, said the couple is seeking compensation so they can cover any future medical costs Xavier may need.

He added: "The doctors failed to inform Emma of their treatment plan and failed to obtain consent for a forceps delivery.

"Emma was made to sign a consent form agreeing to a forceps delivery after the birth whilst she was in the recovery room in a state of shock. This is completely unacceptable practice.

"My clients were treated appallingly by the NHS trust concerned who have still not said what steps are being taken to discipline or re-educate the doctor who delivered Xavier.

"Such action has to be taken if the public are going to have confidence in NHS maternity services.

"It's no good just closing ranks and hoping that it won't happen again."