Obsteric negligence claims news


60 seconds with a medical negligence lawyer

Over the following year we will be sharing a series of question and answer articles about our day-to-day lives in the medical negligence team. This week, it’s Rachel Carey's turn, a solicitor in the team.

Rachel qualified in April 2016 and joined the Clinical Negligence team at Boyes Turner in November 2016. Rachel’s clients have suffered obstetric and gynaecological injuries, Erb’s palsy, pressure sores, disability resulting from delayed diagnosis and treatment of cancer. She acts for the bereaved spouses and children of patients who have died as a result of negligent medical care.

  • What made you choose a career in clinical negligence?
    The driving force behind my decision to study law and specialise in claimant clinical negligence work was my desire to help David, rather than Goliath. I have a keen interest in medicine and enjoy using my skills and expertise to help our clients get back on their feet or live a more fulfilling and stress free life following a medical accident. I find it incredibly satisfying to be in a position which allows me to guide clients through the legal process which I know many will find daunting and overwhelming.
  • Which personal skills does it take to succeed at this type of work? 
    It is really important for a clinical negligence solicitor to have empathy, be able to show understanding and have the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. As the majority of the medical accidents we deal with cause life changing injuries which devastating consequences to our clients and their families, I ensure that I always bear that in mind and treat them sensitively and patiently.
  • What is the most rewarding part of your work? 
    I recently met with a young client’s Mum on a case where the hospital had admitted liability. She told me how relieved she was to know that, as a result of the compensation, her son, who has cerebral palsy, would be looked after and taken care of for the rest of his life when her and her husband were no longer able to. She was excited to be able to move into a more appropriately sized and adapted home which could cater for her son’s needs. I could see how much that meant to her and to know that the work I had been a part of had helped was incredibly rewarding and made me realise even more how important the work we do is for people.

International prenatal infection prevention month - Raising awareness of prenatal infections

February this year is international prenatal infection prevention month, which raises awareness of prenatal infections, including meningitis and group B Strep. Such infections are the UK’s most common cause of life-threatening infection in babies up to three months old.

What is group B Strep?

Group B Strep is a form of meningitis caused by Group B streptococcal bacteria: Streptococcus agalactiae. It is the biggest cause of neonatal meningitis in the UK and can also cause septicaemia (blood poisoning) and pneumonia.

Not all babies exposed to group B Strep become infected, but, for those who do, the results can be devastating. Group B Strep can cause babies to be miscarried, stillborn, born prematurely, become very sick, have lifelong handicaps, or die.

Protecting babies from group B Strep

There are many ways to help protect babies from group B strep and to prevent these harmful injuries, including giving antibiotics to women in labour who carry group B Strep late in pregnancy. These massively reduce the risk of your newborn baby developing a group B Strep infection. There are no symptoms of carrying group B Strep, so the only way to find out whether you are is through testing.

Researchers around the world are working on developing a vaccine that will one day prevent almost all group B Strep infection in babies, but it’s not available yet.

Our experience

Unfortunately the medical negligence team at Boyes Turner LLP know only too well the risks associated with group B Strep and meningitis.  We currently act for clients who have suffered life limiting injuries as a result of delays in diagnosis of infection.

Offer your support to the campaign by raising awareness on Twitter using #groupBStrep #ProtectYourUnbornBaby @GBSSupport @MeningitisNow.

Are home births the answer to our NHS funding crisis?

Draft guidelines have been produced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) regarding the care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth.  These guidelines recommend that home births and midwifery-led care should be encouraged for women with a low risk of complications.

“Low risk” has been described as women without any pre-existing medical conditions or risk factors such as, high BMI, high blood pressure or a previous history of caesarean section.

First time mums with a low risk of complications will be advised to give birth at a midwifery –led unit which could be either based at the hospital site or elsewhere.

Low risk mums who have given birth before will be advised to give birth at home where possible.

The guidance is a result of new evidence that suggests that in low risk women, the rate of intervention during labour is much lower and the outcome for a baby who is born at home is comparably the same as a baby born at an obstetric facility.

The guidelines are only in draft form and are open to consultation until 24 June 2015.

Emily Hartland, a solicitor in the Medical Negligence team at Boyes Turner, commented:

“Whilst some organisations are in support of the new guidelines, others such as the Birth Trauma Association have expressed some concerns that there is ‘no robust evidence to justify NICE assuring low risk first time mothers that to give birth in a free standing midwifery unit is as safe as is a hospital…… there is evidence to suggest the contrary.’ Boyes Turner act for many families where urgent care has been delayed with tragic outcomes.  Whilst these draft guidelines refer to low risk mums only, women should think very carefully about the risks of delivering at home or at a midwifery-led unit without immediate access to emergency care should obstetric complications occur. It is crucial that women are able to make informed choices and that any risk factors are carefully assessed throughout their antenatal care.  We are concerned that the failure to recognise complications early, either in the antenatal period or at delivery, could led to an increase in birth injuries both for mum and child and that pressure to cut costs  may be a key factor in the development of these guidelines.” 

Each Baby Counts' - RCOG launch campaign

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists launched a 5 year project to halve number of baby deaths due to complications during labour

In the UK, around 500 full term babies die or are left severely disabled each year because something goes wrong during labour, such as they are starved of oxygen.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has launched a new five year project which aims to halve the number of stillbirths, early neonatal death and brain injuries occurring in the UK as a result of complications during labour by 2020.

From January 2015, the ‘Each Baby Counts’ project, which is part funded by the Department of Health, will being collecting, pooling and analysing data from all UK maternity units to identify avoidable issues to improve future care and prevent these tragic events.

Professor Alan Cameron, RCOG Vice President for clinical quality has stated:

“We will monitor where these incidents occur and why.  Sharing of these sensitive data will provide us all with a unique opportunity to improve the care we provide and save lives”.

Rhiannon Jones, solicitor with the Boyes Turner Medical Negligence team, comments:

“We have significant experience of dealing with cases where the stillbirth, neonatal death or birth of a baby with brain injuries has a devastating effect on women and their families. By collecting information from around the UK, hopefully much can be learned to prevent these tragedies from occurring.”

Compensation claim settled for £150,000 after hysterectomy causes bowel damage

An individual has received £150,000 to compensate her for the injuries she sustained following an unnecessary sub-total hysterectomy. The surgery was performed after an ovarian cyst was suspected to be malignant.  However, it was later discovered that the cyst was in fact benign and if the doctor had taken the appropriate steps in the circumstances, including a full review of the various ultrasound images, it would have been clear that the risk of the cyst being malignant was less than five per cent.

The individual had a previous medical history of endometriosis and ovarian cysts. Following concerns that a cyst on her ovary was malignant, she was advised by the doctor to undergo a sub-total hysterectomy, even though there was a high risk that she could develop bowel damage and had previously been told to avoid surgery.

It was alleged that the doctor had failed to review the individual’s various ultrasound images, failed to consider the CA125 tumour marker and failed to refer the matter to the multidisciplinary team before advising the individual to undergo surgery.

Following the advice of the doctor, the individual felt re-assured and underwent surgery. Unfortunately, during the surgery her lateral femoral cutaneous nerve and bowel were damaged. As a result, she suffered from peritonitis (an infection of the abdomen lining) and required emergency surgery to repair the bowel and treat the peritonitis. She sadly became infertile after experiencing early menopause and suffered from many other symptoms, including bowel obstruction, severe abdominal pain, poor mobility and a tingling sensation in her legs.

All of her symptoms were considered to be permanent and had a dramatic effect on her daily life. Her husband had to help her to get in and out of bed and help her with personal hygiene. As household chores became impossible, her husband had to resume the role, including cooking, cleaning, laundry and food shopping.

The hospital admitted liability and a settlement was reached in the sum of £150,000. £60,000 was attributable to the individuals pain and suffering which was considered extensive and permanent. £90,000 was attributable to past and future care costs.

Emily Hartland, a solicitor at Boyes Turner comments:

“This is a sad case involving permanent injuries which could have been avoided. Whilst the compensation will never reverse the damage caused, the money will help the individual and her husband to pay for any future care needs. ”

Shift in NHS policy could see increase in home births

NICE, the NHS watchdog have announced a radical shift in NHS policy which will see hundreds of thousands more women encouraged to give birth at home. Mothers-to-be will be told that unless there is a high risk of complications they do not need a hospital delivery. First-time mothers are to be advised they are just as safe having their baby in a small midwife-led unit as on the labour ward.

The encouragement for home births marks a major change in NHS guidance, which previously advised mothers to be cautious about having their baby at home.

NICE says its proposals reflect recent evidence. But the change of policy at a time when many hospital labour wards are struggling to cope with the highest birth rate in 40 years, will lead to concerns the NHS is simply trying to save money.

Home births are now recommended by NHS

NICE, the NHS watchdog, have announced a radical shift in NHS policy which will see hundreds of thousands more women encouraged to give birth at home. Mothers-to-be will be told that unless there is a high risk of complications they do not need a hospital delivery. First-time mothers are to be advised they are just as safe having their baby in a small midwife-led unit as on the labour ward.

The encouragement for home births marks a major change in NHS guidance, which previously advised mothers to be cautious about having their baby at home.

NICE says its proposals reflect recent evidence. But the change of policy at a time when many hospital labour wards are struggling to cope with the highest birth rate in 40 years, will lead to concerns the NHS is simply trying to save money.

Sue Brown, head of Boyes Turner’s  Medical Negligence claims team, comments:

“Most mothers say that they prefer to give birth in hospital in case anything goes wrong. But many midwives support home birth as a safe and far more personal and comfortable choice. The problem is that if something does go wrong, it can be more difficult to have a legal remedy as inevitably time will be lost in admitting a mother in labour to hospital. Certainly there is a place for home birth for many but not all and mothers reluctant to deliver at home should not be put under pressure to do so”.

1,000 pot holes to be filled in Reading

The Reading Post reports today (7 January 2014) that almost 1,000 potholes have been filled on Reading’s roads over the last five months.

The potholes are caused mainly by high rainfall and low temperatures and the work programme is ongoing, but this is good news for motorists and cyclists, all of whom can suffer as a result of crumbling road surfaces.

Reading Borough Council’s pothole repair programme is believed to be a first for any unitary authority in the country, involving as it does switching all existing highway maintenance gangs to concentrate on filling potholes, and we are told that this is Reading making the best of a bad situation. Council spending on road maintenance is twice what the Department for Transport gives to cover the cost, the remainder having to be made up from their own general budget, and if all roads are to be maintained properly and to an acceptable standard then central Government needs to provide realistic funding.

Potholes can result in tyre and vehicle damage for motorists, but occasionally they lead to personal harm too, particularly for cyclists who are vulnerable when thrown from their bikes.

Boyes Turner secure £200,000 compensation for 40 yr old Melanie

Specialist medical negligence solicitor Vanessa Wand secured a settlement of £200,000 for Melanie, following a negligent repair of a third degree perineal tear which was sustained during the delivery of Melanie’s first child.

As a result of the negligence, Melanie suffers from faecal incontinence and significant psychiatric injury. The compensation award will enable her to pay for private biofeedback treatment, and also psychological therapy.

There was no cost to Melanie in bringing the claim, which was funded by No Win No Fee Agreement.

Maternity care negligence

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), the NHS care watchdog, has uncovered “a catalogue of failings” at Barts Health NHS Trust including uncaring staff, blood-stained equipment, poor hygiene standards, patients not being helped to eat and a high mortality rate. 

It has reported “very serious concerns” about what its inspectors found when they staged two unannounced inspections in several key departments at Whipps Cross University hospital in east London in May and June.

During the visits a midwife was seen being sarcastic and unsympathetic to a new mother in a blood-stained gown who complained of being in pain. The midwife brought her tablets but did not explain what they were. She then also brought the woman the wrong sort of formula milk for her baby, did not accept that she had done so and did not then offer to bring her the right one.

“We found that, in places, the hospital was unsafe and dirty, and that staff didn’t always show patients the compassion that people deserve”, said Matthew Trainer, the CQC’s regional director for London. “Patients were not receiving the care and support they should have been able to expect, and in some cases this was putting them at risk of harm. If staff have uncaring attitudes, are not supported properly to do their job, or if they are not properly supervised, the consequences for patients can be very worrying”, he said.

In an unusually critical assessment, inspectors said the hospital was in breach of 10 of the 16 national standards for quality and safety of care. Some failings were so grave that patients’ safety was in danger.

Barts Health, which is the biggest NHS trust and runs five other hospitals, has been issued with three formal warnings to improve Whips Cross’s performance – on cleanliness and infection control; safety, availability and suitability of equipment; and support to staff. The CQC has demanded urgent action in these areas.

“We saw examples of poor care, unacceptable staff behaviour and poor infection control in maternity services. In surgery, theatre processes and communication arrangements put people’s safety at risk. Surgery and maternity were both too busy, did not have enough staff to look after people’s needs, and lacked bed capacity, which meant they were not as effective as they should be and not always responsive to people’s needs”, one of the CQC’s two reports into the hospital said. Management had not done enough to tackle these problems, it added.

In the maternity unit, staff on the postnatal ward were found to be uncaring, while in the labour ward inspectors found blood stains on a stainless steel bowl in a room that staff said was ready to use. In another there were also stains on the disposable curtains.

Care was “not always delivered safely” and some newborns ended up in intensive care, “related to a failure by midwives to carry out the correct observations at the right time and escalating mothers (for treatment) when required”, the CQC said. A lack of maternity beds meant the unit occasionally had to shut temporarily, with women who expected to give birth there being sent instead to other hospitals when they were already in labour.

In surgical services, a lack of staff on two wards inspected, “led to people receiving unacceptable levels of care”, while a bed shortage, “meant that people waited too long in the recovery areas after surgery” and operations were often cancelled. In addition, “people were having poor outcomes after surgery as the 90-day post-surgery mortality rate was higher than the national average”.

The A&E unit had not met the key NHS target of treating 95% of patients within four hours for six months before the inspection and patients arriving in ambulances sometimes ended up receiving medical attention while still on a trolley.

The Guardian reports that Peter Morris, Barts Health’s chief executive, said he was, “extremely sorry for the failings”, the CQC had found.

He said it had already introduced “robust action plans”, including improvement in training and care standards for maternity staff, bringing in personnel from its other hospitals and ensuring that the 500 staff who look after elderly patients always provided excellent care.

Parts of the hospital in east London were found to be unsafe and dirty, and in some cases patients were at risk of harm

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