Parents demand action following childbirth failures

6 April 2012.....    Hannah Wyatt, partner Sean Smith, son Harry and daughter Edith, who was deprived of oxygen at birth a year ago when she was born at Dewsbury and District Hospital. The family live in Birkenshaw, Bradford.
6 April 2012..... Hannah Wyatt, partner Sean Smith, son Harry and daughter Edith, who was deprived of oxygen at birth a year ago when she was born at Dewsbury and District Hospital. The family live in Birkenshaw, Bradford.

A COUPLE whose baby suffered brain damage after hospital staff missed danger signs during her birth have urged bosses to urgently improve standards of care.

Hannah Wyatt and Sean Smith, from Birkenshaw, are taking legal action against Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS trust after maternity staff at Dewsbury and District Hospital repeatedly missed warning signs while Hannah was in labour with their daughter Edith last May.

An internal investigation revealed staff failed to spot Edith was in distress more than five hours before her delivery.

She did not breathe for eight minutes after she was born, and early scans revealed she had suffered brain damage.

Miss Wyatt, 36, said: “In her first year we have just been constantly worrying – we cannot sit back and enjoy her.

“The whole thing has been so traumatic and upsetting and could have been avoided. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else. It’s such small things that could have been done to prevent such a terrible event.”

Last month, the Care Quality Commission issued a formal warning to the trust following an investigation. Interim trust chief executive Stephen Eames said urgent action was being taken to improve the maternity service.

Mr Smith said: “A lot of time is spent putting improvement plans in place but changes are a long time coming. Action could have been taken on the ground rather than waiting for reports or inquiries to trigger it.”

Miss Wyatt added: “We’d like to think after one incident like this they would do everything they could to prevent it from happening again. But it was as if they were crossing their fingers and hoping births would go okay.”

The couple are taking legal action and have also reported a doctor involved in Edith’s care to the General Medical Council after discovering she had left the region and was now under the jurisdiction of a different trust.

The couple returned to Dewsbury for Edith’s delivery after their first child, Harry, was born there in November 2009

They were assured by their midwife that labour was progressing normally, despite concerns being raised about Edith’s heart rate.

Miss Wyatt said she began to feel very ill and became worried something was wrong.

Edith was delivered by forceps and was not breathing. The couple said they were left for nearly three hours, not knowing if their baby had survived, before being told she had suffered oxygen deprivation.

They were warned she could have problems with movement, co-ordination and learning difficulties, before she was transferred for special cooling treatment in Leeds.

The internal investigation into the incident, rated ‘severe’ by the hospital, found there had been a failure to pick up and act on abnormalities in Edith’s heart trace, no blood test had been carried out to check for signs of distress and communication was poor between staff and with the family.

There was no evidence another opinion had been sought to examine heart traces, even though it was part of unit guidelines.

The midwife had been referred for extra training but the couple was unhappy the doctor had not faced any further action.

An external review by the Local Supervisory Authority for midwifery made recommendations to the trust to improve care.

Miss Wyatt and Mr Smith said Edith had been given intensive physiotherapy and was doing a lot better than they had been warned to expect - but her long-term prospects remain unclear.