Warning over health system pressures

MORE babies could needlessly die in Suffolk hospitals because of pressures on the health system, a specialist lawyer has warned.Last week, the EADT reported that serious concerns about the ability of the West Suffolk Hospital to deal with emergencies had been raised by the tragic death of three-day-old Hayden Bozward.

MORE babies could needlessly die in Suffolk hospitals because of pressures on the health system, a specialist lawyer has warned.

Last week, the EADT reported that serious concerns about the ability of the West Suffolk Hospital to deal with emergencies had been raised by the tragic death of three-day-old Hayden Bozward.

Now Sharon Cutts, a clinical negligence specialist with East Anglian solicitors Kester Cunningham John, who negotiated an out-of-court settlement on behalf of the newborn baby's family, has warned the tragedy is just the “tip of the iceberg.”

Miss Cutts, who deals with similar cases throughout the country, said she was alarmed that four baby deaths at the same hospital had been the subject of enquiries to her firm in the last year.


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The claims were last night strenuously denied by bosses at the Bury St Edmunds hospital who described the figures as “misleading”.

They moved to reassure maternity patients, saying the hospital's neonatal death rate was less than half the national average.

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But Miss Cutts warned: “Our firm alone has had four enquiries since November 2004 concerning alleged negligence surrounding baby deaths at the West Suffolk Hospital, two of which have been settled out of court.

“Sadly, in my view, I envisage that we will see more cases like the sad death of Hayden Bozward.

“The Government consistently tells us of the NHS's unrelenting excellence and there is no question that, for the vast majority, those employed within the health service are doing a difficult job in near impossible circumstances.

“Sometimes it's not the clinicians themselves, but the built-in safety systems they have which are questionable.”

And Miss Cutts, whose law firm is nationally recognised in the field, said she was concerned that the way the health service deals with obstetrics was failing to effect change at grass roots level, and the situation was therefore unlikely to change.

“Despite Government pledges of more funding to address the acknowledgements of failures within the health service, their efforts appear to be having limited effect at ground level,” she said.

“Society has an acceptance of average when it comes to health care because we just don't know what to expect.”

During the inquest into Hayden's death, it transpired that a specialist obstetrician, who should have been able to attend within five minutes during the baby's difficult birth, took up to 25 minutes to arrive and the hospital had only one emergency team available overnight.

While not wanting to point the finger solely at the West Suffolk Hospital, Miss Cutts said: “The frustrating thing is that we are consistently being told changes are being made, yet we are consistently getting the same sorts of cases time and time again.”

Patricia Davis, the hospitals' head of midwifery and general manager of the woman and child directorate, said last night: “It is very misleading to suggest that the number of clinical negligence claims being handled at any one time by a firm of solicitors is indicative of what is happening in a local hospital, particularly when this hospital's neonatal death rate is less than half of the national average.

“It should be noted that not all claims would result in successful action against a trust or indicate substandard care.

“We must remember that even in this day and age, the process of child birth is difficult and not without risks and complications.

“The aim of the trust is to continue to provide safe maternity services for women. All neonatal deaths are the subject of an internal review to see if there are any lessons to be learnt that will help to refine and further improve our procedures.

“Medical and midwifery staff in the maternity unit at the hospital would like to reassure all women using the service that they will continue to receive the quality of care and attention they would expect.”

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