Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Royal Berkshire NHS Trust failed in care of newborn baby

The parents of a newborn baby who tragically died two days after birth instructed Kerry Fifield, Partner, to act in September 2013.

Mrs Frances Sewell, who lives in Reading with her husband Darren, gave birth to Spencer on 2 September 2013 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. As a result of negligent treatment he was in extremely poor health at birth and died on September 4 in John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

Serious incident report / Root cause analysis report

A Serious Incident Report and Action Plan by the hospital dated October 12, 2013 identified a number of failures in relation to the treatment received.

The investigation by the hospital had concluded that there had been a failure to recognise uterine hyper-contractility during labour, an inability to record foetal heart during labour and a failure to escalate the complications to medical staff.

Recommendations following the investigation was that three midwifes employed by the Trust should undergo local supervising authority practice programmes of 150 hours to improve the practice.

Clinical negligence claim

The Trust were invited to make early admissions in respect of the liability in light of the investigations which had already been undertaken but they refused to do so and advised that it would be appropriate for us to obtain our own independent medical evidence in accordance with the Clinical Negligence Protocol.

A supportive report was obtained from Mr Andrew Farkas, Consultant Obstetrician. Mr Farkas was of the opinion that the treatment given to Mrs Sewell amounted to a breach of duty of care. He confirmed the following:

  1. There had been a failure in respect of ante-natal care;
  2. Failure to discuss the risk and benefits of a Caesarean section in respect of this pregnancy;
  3. The decision to manage our client as low risk midwifery patient was fundamentally flawed;
  4. Failure to ascertain hyper stimulation or appreciate the significance of abnormal CTG recording;
  5. Failure to escalate any concerns to an Obstetrician during the labour.

Mr Farkas concluded that Spencer’s death could have been avoided if the negligence had not occurred.

A Letter of Claim was forwarded to the Trust in October 2014 setting out allegations of negligence and also confirming that a secondary victim claim was to be pursued for Mr Sewell.

In April 2015 the Trust finally admitted mistakes had been made and promised a letter of apology. It took them another five months for the Trust to send the apology letter.

Mrs Sewell said:

When the letter arrived it was just seven lines long, didn’t even mention Spencer by name and showed no sympathy to us. It just added to our grief.”

The claim settled by negotiation in January 2017.

Mrs Sewell said:

I want to ensure that no other families have to go through what we have been through. We were ignored when we raised concerns before the birth and the hospital has since admitted there were huge failings in the care I received.

I was begging for help and they ignored it. If I had received a Caesarean Section as I requested then things may have worked out differently. They then knew from five weeks after Spencer had died that the birth had been mishandled but they chose not to formally admit their mistakes or even apologise.

We were forced into taking protracted legal action against them to find out what happened and the delays just added to our pain and the legal costs on both sides.”

Kerry Fifield, said

This case highlights where the legal costs could have been significantly reduced if the matter had been dealt with sensibly at the outset by the NHS Trust. We would have avoided the unnecessary costs of obtaining reports from independent experts instead the investigation was delayed and prolonged. The way the case was handled by the Trust and NHS Litigation Authority lacked any real empathy for the parents’ grief and made a very difficult situation much worse.”