Parents shocked to learn of maternity failings at ‘inadequate’ hospital unit

Concerns have been raised over maternity safety at Basildon University Hospital

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 13 October 2020 19:41
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Inspectors found a cluster of six serious incidents where babies were born in a poor condition after a whistleblower reported concerns about safety
Inspectors found a cluster of six serious incidents where babies were born in a poor condition after a whistleblower reported concerns about safety

The parents of a baby boy who suffered brain damage at a maternity unit criticised by regulators say they fear more babies could have been harmed.

Basildon University Hospital’s maternity services were rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission in August after inspectors identified a cluster of babies who were starved of oxygen during birth and put at risk of brain damage.

The parents on one baby, who asked not to be named, have now launched legal action against the hospital after their son suffered serious brain damage during his birth in April this year.

The parents say they want to understand what happened to their son who was born in a poor condition and had to be resuscitated and helped to breath.

He suffered a lack of oxygen, seizures and suspected sepsis and was treated in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. He had 72 hours of cooling to try and reduce the swelling in his brain.

In an inspection during March and April this year the Care Quality Commission found six babies had been starved of oxygen. Its inspection was prompted by concerns raised by whistleblowers at the hospital.

The mother told The Independent she was “shocked” that their experience was not unique adding: “It makes me sadder to see that this is a trend. If this had happened to one baby then it could be seen as a mistake and it is more excusable, but to see that it has happened to more is unacceptable.”

Claudia Hillemand, partner at Bolt Burdon Kemp law firm said she believed the failings were linked to poor funding, understaffing and a lack of training as well as breakdown in communications between staff.

She added: “A toxic work culture has led to a perfect storm where innocent mothers and babies have been the ones to suffer.”  

“Alarms have been repeatedly sounded in recent years and months, yet it appears that lessons have not been learned and that in fact the problems have worsened.”

The baby’s father accused the hospital of neglecting his wife. He said: “Most of the time it was just me and her in the room together and I thought how can I leave her alone in this state? If the nurses aren’t very attentive to her while I am here what happens if I leave?”

Once the baby was born he was transferred to Homerton Hospital in East London.

The father added: “Nobody was giving me information as to how long my baby would be there or how he was doing. I was very distressed, not sleeping in the night while I was there, I kept on crying at night and pacing the wards.  

“We hope that speaking about our experience helps to raise awareness and stop this happening again.”  

The parents and their law firm have backed The Independent’s campaign for the government to reinstate a national maternity safety training fund, which allowed 30,000 doctors and midwives to be trained in delivering safer care.

The fund was scrapped after just one year.

Ms Hillemand said: “The reinstatement of the training fund, whilst not a panacea, could play a crucial part in tackling the repeated revelations of poor care mothers and babies are receiving as a result of insufficient training and resources in this country’s maternity services.  

“No one pretends that the competing demands on the budget are straightforward, but in the wake of repeated scandals and tragic accounts of avoidable life changing injuries and deaths dedicated funding for maternity training is surely a minimum requirement.”

In November last year, The Independent revealed the largest ever maternity scandal in the history of the NHS at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust where an independent inquiry is examining almost 1,900 cases of alleged poor care.

In January this year a coroner criticised the hospital for “serious failings” in the care of Gabriela Pintilie who died after losing six litres of blood after giving birth to her daughter via an emergency caesarean section in February 2019.

A “breakdown in communication” meant doctors carrying out the c-section did not realise there was not enough blood and blood clotting products available.

Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray issued a narrative verdict saying there was a “lack of leadership” to deal with the situation as well as a “lack of co-ordination and team work.”

A spokesperson for Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Basildon University Hospital, said: “We are sorry that the family has concerns regarding the standard of care. With the case currently under active investigation we are unable to make further comment.”

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