Midwife mistakes cost NHS millions

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The figures, collated by the NHS Litigation Authority showed that the cost of damages paid out by the NHS in 2006, which amounted to £11.8 million in 2006, had risen to £85.8 million in 2010.

Of course, some of this increase can be accounted for by increasing costs generally and in particular, the cost of caring for a catastrophically injured child. However, this huge increase surely begs the question of whether more mistakes are being made, not just whether more claims are being brought.

According to the figures published, a total of £196 million was paid out in compensation between 2006 and 2010 to families who had either tragically lost a baby due to errors in interpreting CTG traces, or had had the dream of having a healthy baby delivered, shattered by the consequences of having a baby with significant disabilities and massive care requirements for the rest of that child's life by reason of a similar mistake.

The publication of these figures has led to a call for improved training and teaching of both midwives and obstetricians. The accurate interpretation of CTG traces, the monitor to which expectant mothers are so often hooked up to , to record the bay's heart rate, is vital in being able to detect problems with the baby early on, at a time where proper intervention  and delivery of the baby, can prevent catastrophic brain damage, and even death, occurring. Problems detected on a properly interpreted CTG can often be early indicators of lack of oxygen being delivered to the baby, which if prolonged, can result in hypoxic brain injury.

Blake Lapthorn is proud to be associated with Baby Lifeline, a charity which promotes up to the minute education of professionals involved in the delivery of babies. The charity is running a Masterclass in CTG at our Oxford office on 4th-5th October 2011 and at our Southampton office on 10th – 11th November 2011. This course is aimed at all professionals, midwives, obstetricians and clinical negligence lawyers, who are professionally involved in the interpretation of CTG traces. Further information can be found at Baby Lifeline Training.

As a clinical negligence lawyer myself, I am more often than I would like, faced with a potential claim against the NHS which has resulted in either the tragic stillbirth or neonatal death of a baby, or the terrible situation of a child with severe disabilities, often classed as cerebral palsy, who will have hugely significant care needs for the rest of their life. The cost of such care to the family unit, as well as financially, should not be underestimated, particularly when the primary aim is to enable that child to have as fulfilling, enjoyable and independent a life as possible.

The most important fact to come out of the NHS Litigation's statistics should surely be that improved training and therefore prevention of these tragedies should take precedence within the NHS.

However, if such a tragedy has occurred as a result of a mistake by a treating midwife, obstetrician or failures within the NHS system itself, then it is equally certain that the family concerned should be provided with the genuine apology and  financial support they deserve, to enable them to either somehow help them come to terms with their loss, or to provide for the care and support required by the brain injured child to live as fulfilling a life as possible.

I personally have been involved in a number of cases involving such issues, each of them heart rendering in their own unique way. No case is exactly the same and it is impossible as a solicitor to become blasé about the consequences of a misinterpreted CTG trace. What the families go through, away from the more formal settings in which they discuss the situation with their solicitor and the  experts involved in providing independent advice in relation to their case, can only be imagined.

If you and your family find yourself in this terrible situation, please  do not hesitate to contact me. Our highly experienced lawyers in the clinical negligence team at Blake Lapthorn include a dual qualified doctor/partner and a dual qualified midwife/solicitor. We also have the benefit of having a qualified intensive care nurse on our team. We shall all deal with your case with the sensitivity that you quite rightly expect and deserve.

Further information and previous case studies can also be located here.

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