Record fine for scandal-hit maternity hospital over death of baby 23 minutes after birth

Failings were exposed as part of a wider maternity care investigation by The Independent in 2021

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Friday 27 January 2023 20:16 GMT
Sarah Andrews with baby Wynter
Sarah Andrews with baby Wynter (Scala)

An NHS trust at the centre of a major maternity scandal investigation has been fined a record six-figure sum for “gross failings” which led to the death of a baby just 23 minutes after her birth.

Wynter Sophia Andrews was starved of oxygen after she was born in 2019, while her mother Sarah was left in labour for four days before having an emergency caesarean.

Failure in their care was exposed by The Independent which revealed dozens of babies had died due to errors by Nottingham University Hospitals Foundation Trust.

On Friday, the trust was ordered to pay £800,000 after a prosecution was brought by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the largest fine ever received following prosecution over maternity failings.

The district judge Grace Leong said there had been a “catalogue of failings” and detailed the “avoidable errors” which led to Wynter’s death and devastating post-traumatic stress for her parents.

The Nottinghamshire trust is facing an independent inquiry prompted by this newspaper’s 2021 report which will be led by Donna Ockenden, into more than 1,500 cases of alleged poor maternity care.

Ms Ockenden also chaired the inquriy into the deaths of more than 200 babies at Shrewsbury and Telford Trust which again was triggered by an investigation into maternity care by The Independent.

After the record fine, Gary and Sarah Andrews, Wynter’s parents, said the trust’s sentence was not “just for Wynter, but it’s for all the babies who have gone before and after her”.

An inquest into Wynter’s death in 2020 concluded that there was a “clear and obvious case of neglect” and “gross failings” that led to her avoidable death from a loss of oxygen flow to the brain.

The coroner ruled this could have been prevented if staff at the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham had delivered her earlier.

Sentencing the trust on Friday at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court, Judge Leong said: “The catalogue of failings and errors exposed Mrs Andrews and her baby to a significant risk of harm which was avoidable, and such errors ultimately resulted in the death of Wynter and post-traumatic stress for Mrs Andrews and Mr Andrews.

“My assessment is that the level of culpability is high, where offences on Wynter and Mrs Andrews are concerned.

“There were systems in place, but there were so many procedures and practices where guidance was not followed or adhered to or implemented.”

Sarah Andrews was left in labour over several days, with staff telling her she was in early labour, when she was actually in late stages. She was allowed to continue in labour for days until a caesarean was carried out but the failures meant it was too late to deliver Wynter safely and she died shortly after.

In response to the sentencing, Wynter’s parents said: “Today’s sentencing hearing has demonstrated the seriousness of the trust’s failings towards Wynter and I. These criminal proceedings are designed to act as a punishment and a deterrent. No financial penalty will ever bring Wynter back.

“We thank the judge and recognise the delicate balance she made to impose this significant fine, which we hope sends a clear message to the trust managers that they must hold patient safety in the highest regard.

“Sadly, we are not the only family harmed by the Trust’s failings. We feel that this sentence isn’t just for Wynter, but it’s for all the babies who have gone before and after her.”

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This is the first time the trust has been prosecuted by the CQC over maternity failings.

The judge said she was “acutely aware” that any fine would have to be paid out of public funds which would otherwise be spent on patient care.

However, she said the “systematic failures” were “more than sufficient” to cause harm to Wynter and her mother.

In addition to the £800,000 fine, the trust will pay prosecution costs of £13,668 and a victim surcharge of £181.

Sarah and Gary Andrews arrive at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday
Sarah and Gary Andrews arrive at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday (PA Wire)

Outside the court on Wednesday, Ms Andrews said in a statement that her daughter and family had been “failed in the most cruel way” and urged other mothers who may have been through similar experiences to take part in the Ockenden Review.

The trust accepted wrongdoing to the CQC several months prior to Wednesday’s court hearing, with chief executive Anthony May reiterating its apology.

In a statement, he said: “We are truly sorry for the pain and grief that we caused Mr and Mrs Andrews due to failings in the maternity care we provided.

“We let them down at what should have been a joyous time in their lives.”

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