Childbirth injury lawyer Oliver Thorne was so concerned by the number of incidents he has encountered at a Devon maternity unit that he wrote to the coroner.
The press has now picked up on the issue and you can read the news story here.
The newspaper reports that an independent review has been undertaken following several “incidents” at the North Devon District Hospital, in Barnstaple. It is reported that staff at the Ladywell Unit may have been suspended as a result.
Oliver, who is a partner at Slee Blackwell solicitors, has been instructed to investigate the deaths of three new-born babies at the facility in the last two years. In addition he is pursuing three more cases where babies have suffered brain injuries. He told the newspaper that the hospital paid compensation 6 months ago to a client of his whose baby was stillborn because midwives failed to correctly monitor the pregnancy. Two further deaths are under investigation, although the NHS has acknowledged fault in one case after a brain injury occurred.
Specialising in medical negligence cases involving childbirth injury, Oliver wrote to the coroner because a pulmonary haemorrhage (bleeding from the lung) was so unusual in a new-born baby.
He is quoted as saying, “A pulmonary haemorrhage is not something normally associated with the death of a baby during childbirth.”
“Although the coroner was happy with the cause of death, I believe there should have been an inquest and that is why I felt compelled to write to the coroner.”
It is important to a campaigning lawyer like Oliver that lessons are learnt from his clients’ bad experiences. “I thought if I said something it might make things better at the unit. The most important thing is to stop this kind of thing from happening again.”
“If I had the ability to go to the Care Quality Commission”, he said, “and insist on having an investigation carried out then I would have done so. I therefore figured that if the coroner told them then they might do that.”
As a result of incidents earlier in the year, the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust alerted NHS Improvement – the group responsible for overseeing trusts. The Trust also invited the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to visit the hospital and their full report is awaited.
Oliver has vowed to keep the position under review and will act further if he sees further signs of concern.