An investigation into maternity services at an NHS trust has concluded that a baby’s death was “almost certainly preventable”.
Harriet Hawkins was delivered stillborn after her mother was transferred from one maternity unit to another because of understaffing. She had been pronounced dead nine hours earlier.
Sarah and Jack Hawkins always believed that mistakes by staff at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust had led to their daughter’s death, but it has taken almost two years for an independent report to reach the same conclusion.
Mrs Hawkins had been seen by staff, but remained in undiagnosed labour for six days.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Hawkins said: “Harriet was normal, Sarah was well, so the only explanation was that there had been failures of care.”
Among 13 failings identified by a National Patient Safety Agency investigation into the birth at Nottingham City Hospital were a failure to record information properly, a failure to recognise a prolonged dysfunctional labour and a delay in applying appropriate foetal monitoring.
Mrs Hawkins had been due to give birth at the Queen’s Medical Centre, but its maternity unit had stopped new admissions because of staff shortages.
What makes the case more unusual is that both parents worked at the hospital: Mr Hawkins as a consultant, and Mrs Hawkins as a physiotherapist.
She said: “It’s mentally and physically exhausting. We should be grieving for our dead daughter and we haven’t been able to have a funeral yet.
“Not one person from the hospital has asked for our story. We are in the prime position because we worked at the hospital, we trusted our colleagues.”
Their solicitor Janet Baker said that it is one of the worst cases of medical negligence she has seen in 30 years.
“This is only the third time that I’ve advised clients in relation to making referrals for investigation of criminal and safety prosecutions,” she added.
Tracey Taylor, the chief executive of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), said the organisation accepted the report’s findings.
She added: “I offer my deepest sympathy to Sarah and Jack… I profoundly apologise that we let them and Harriet down so badly.
“NUH has acknowledged that it is likely Harriet would have survived had it not been for several shortcomings in care.”
Because of the lengthy inquiry, Harriet’s body remains in the hospital mortuary. Finally, her parents can begin to plan her funeral.