Mother of stillborn baby: ‘I felt completely numb’

Jack and Sarah Hawkins lost their baby Harriet while Sarah was giving birth to her in April 2016. Now, a report has found a series of 13 failings in care which led to her death. They tell Sky News what this means for them and for their future.

This report has been a massive relief, but it is just the start, and not yet closure.

When I was told Harriet was dead, when she was still inside me, what I felt was disbelief.

I felt completely numb.

Then I had to go through several hours of labour before I gave birth to her. It was total disbelief and numbness.

To have it officially acknowledged that I was in prolonged, undiagnosed labour, and that her death was certainly preventable is a relief.

The report’s authors were open and honest, and listened to our story – but the trust has not yet heard it. We are not sure what the trust is thinking, or what they have changed.

They have accepted the report but we do not know what action they are going to take. They have sent what we consider to be a standard response to these kinds of reports. What we don’t feel we have had is a proper apology.

Harriet Hawkins Scan

Image: Harriet Hawkins should have been born perfectly healthy at full-term

We don’t feel the trust has recognised and taken responsibility for what happened. It is lovely to have an apology from the new chief executive, but she wasn’t there at the time and it feels like something is missing.

More staff is good but what went wrong for us were clinical issues, not staffing concerns.

As staff members in that same trust, we trusted our colleagues and the NHS to deliver our perfectly healthy, full-term baby alive, and that got us a dead baby.

No one has listened to us, they have not been open and honest. It has taken 20 months to get this report out, when hours after she died we were raising concerns. We got the blame, and Harriet got the blame.

As we were in the trust, and have a clinical background, we were able to hold it together and escalate this to the right people at the right time.

Sarah Hawkins pregnant

Image: Sarah Hawkins said she trusted her colleagues to deliver her baby

But we are concerned that there have been similar cases since Harriet’s death and that other families and couples do not have our advantage.

If we had not been clinical, we could have gone away from that first meeting and thought it was very sad but we knew it was preventable.

We were at an advantage but we are concerned about those who are not in our position.

Whilst we do feel dissatisfied with the trust, the clinical commissioning group had a wholly different attitude, being inclusive, supportive, thoughtful and kind and they wanted to join us in making the service better.

Jack and Sarah Hawkins

Image: Jack and Sarah Hawkins say the report is just the next stage and not yet closure

This is just the start. We are bringing a civil claim for damages.

We will be making referrals to the CPS and the Health and Safety Executive, as well as referrals based on the report of specific staff to the professional bodies.

We will also be able to have Harriet’s funeral, which will be an important emotional time for us. We have been so disturbed by the attitude of the NUH that we could not hold it.

We did the right thing, but having your daughter’s body in a mortuary for 20 months is tough. We hoped to have it in December and reset this New Year, but we will now hold it in the next couple of weeks and be able to grieve.

We could have had it as soon as she had died if the trust had been open and honest, but this has compounded our mental and physical illness.

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In a statement made to Sky News, Tracey Taylor, the Chief Executive of Nottingham University Hospital accepted the findings and 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.”