Grieving mum urges parents to challenge midwives after baby’s death

‘It’s hard to put into words how much this has opened our eyes to the problems that exist in maternity services’

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 29 September 2021 18:00 BST
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Aimée Whelan and Simone Rizzari have urged parents to raise concerns
Aimée Whelan and Simone Rizzari have urged parents to raise concerns ( )

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A desperate mum who was wrongly classed as low-risk and sent home by midwives had to ring an NHS unit 17 times before she got through for help, it has emerged.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust has admitted systemic errors led to the death of baby Alfie in January this year who was delivered stillborn after mistakes in the care of his mother.

Alfie’s parents Aimée Whelan and Simone Rizzari, say they are devastated by their son’s death and have spoken out so that other parents are confident to raise concerns about their care.

Aimée, aged 23, who lives in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester was incorrectly classed as a low-risk pregnancy, meaning she was booked in to give birth at a standalone midwife led birthing centre called Ingleside.

She was told she did not need obstetrician-led care and that if she went to Bolton Hospital her partner Simone would not be allowed to be with her, which was not the case at Ingleside.

She had a low BMI of 17.4 which meant she should have been reviewed by doctors and booked for a hospital birth. Midwives correctly recorded her BMI but made no referral to doctors. The NHS has now accepted that if this had happened Alfie and his mother would have had the correct care and Alfie would be alive.

When she did go into labour in January this year, midwives failed to tell her to come in to the centre even though she called on three separate occasions saying she was unsure if Alfie was still moving.

When she was eventually seen, the midwives recognised her labour was not progressing, and was told there was a four-hour limit on staying at the birthing centre so she was encouraged to go home to take paracetamol and get some rest.

After returning home, Aimée tried to telephone the triage unit and Ingleside repeatedly for help, with most calls being unanswered. When she managed to make contact, her calls were not logged properly with midwives using pen and paper instead of a computer system.

Hours later, Aimée got through to the maternity unit on her 17th attempt and said that Simone had been unable to hear Alfie’s heartbeat when putting his head to her abdomen.

When she got to Bolton Hospital, midwives found Alfie had died.

Aimée said: “The trust made a series of errors throughout our pregnancy, but in particular during the labour. The number of mistakes made that fell outside the lines of local and national guidance is tragic. If rules had been followed this horrendous ordeal would have been avoided.

“It’s hard to put into words how much this has opened our eyes to the problems that exist in maternity services as we were completely naïve before. It never even entered our heads that oversights so basic could happen. We want to make other parents aware so that they can question things more and know that these risks exist and hopefully make sure no one else suffers as we have.”

She added: “Within two weeks of Alfie’s death we were told the trust had already done a rapid review and were implementing immediate actions but a baby shouldn’t have to die for this to happen. I don’t want Alfie’s death to be in vain but I also want justice for him.”

Lucy Mellor, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at law firm JMW who is representing Aimée and Simone, said: “This is an extremely tragic case. Alfie should, quite simply, never have died. There were a number of mistakes which occurred throughout Aimée’s pregnancy and labour. Despite multiple opportunities to put things right, nobody took the steps to do so.

“Cases involving the avoidable death of a baby during birth often stem from basic failures, and this is another appalling example of that.”

In a letter the law firm, NHS Resolution, which handles negligence cases on behalf of NHS trusts said: “It is accepted that on the balance of probabilities, had your client been placed on the correct pathway, she would have received appropriate care thereafter and her son, Alfie, would have been born alive.

“We wish to sincerely apologise for the substandard care that Miss Whelan received.”

A spokesman for Bolton NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our sympathies are with the family at this difficult time.

“As is trust policy, following such a serious event as the loss of a baby, we are undergoing a review of any policies and procedures related to this incident.

“We continue to provide ongoing support to the family following their sad loss.”

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