Hospital pays out over birth 'failings'

A HOSPITAL trust has admitted “failings” after it agreed to a payout of more than �1million to the family of a girl severely brain damaged at birth.

James Hore

A HOSPITAL trust has admitted “failings” after it agreed to a payout of more than �1million to the family of a girl severely brain damaged at birth.

Colchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust settled the claim at the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday and said it has made improvements to the system since the birth nearly six years ago.

The girl, who the judge ruled cannot be identified, was left with significant brain damage after being born in an ambulance as she was being transferred from Clacton Hospital's maternity unit to Colchester General Hospital due to complications.

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Lawyers acting for the family have called for a review of the maternity system saying they fear the tragedy could be repeated unless doctors and emergency care is provided at the midwife-run operation at Clacton.

They said the mother had arrived at the maternity unit in the early stages of labour, as she had been instructed, but after complications with her labour her baby's heart rate fell to the point where urgent medical attention was required.

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A decision was made to transfer to Colchester General Hospital but the baby was born in the ambulance and had to be resuscitated. It was later confirmed that she had suffered significant brain damage.

Clacton Hospital provides a midwife-led service with no doctors present, but parents are informed of the choices of location available to them before they give birth.

However, the family, from the Clacton area, claimed they were unaware there were no facilities to deal with emergencies and, had they known, would have “insisted” their child was born in Colchester.

Their lawyer, David Kerry, head of clinical negligence at Harlow-based Attwaters, said if the baby had received the medical attention she needed she “would probably not now be brain damaged.”

He said: “This is a tragedy which could so easily have been avoided.

“The little girl's parents remain very concerned that another tragedy like this could occur because of these apparent shortcomings at Clacton.

“They believe that as Clacton maternity unit is so far away from Colchester hospital, which is the nearest hospital with emergency facilities to deal with these problems, it's essential that those facilities are now provided at the Clacton or expectant mothers have their babies at Colchester.

“The little girl is now five years old and very disabled. Her parents continue to provide her with loving care. She can't do anything for herself and they have to provide for her every need.

'The compensation awarded is merely enough to assist them in continuing to look after her, with her complex needs, for the rest of her life. They sincerely hope that lessons will be learnt from this great tragedy.”

As well as the lump sum, the family will receive yearly payments, starting at �96,000 per year going up to �130,000, linked to the costs of care.

A spokesman for the hospital trust said: “Following a detailed investigation after the birth almost six years ago, the trust introduced a series of changes, such as improvements to the way we keep medical records and the introduction of new patient information.

“There remain significant differences between the parties, but the trust acknowledges some failings for which it apologises and, as a consequence, made improvements.

“We are sorry that this girl sustained a brain injury at birth and wish her and her family best wishes for the future. We are pleased to have been able to reach a settlement.”

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