An investigation over the past decade at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust by The Independent and Channel 4 News uncovered repeated patterns of poor care, examples of botched inquiries and a failure to learn lessons that could keep mothers and their newborns safe.
Nottingham, which has one of the largest NHS budgets in the UK, is currently facing at least a dozen clinical negligence claims by bereaved families of babies who died or were left brain-damaged after errors during childbirth.
It was revealed that the trust has already paid out more than £91m in damages and legal costs since 2010, including 46 cases of babies left with permanent brain damage and 19 stillbirths as well as 15 deaths.
Data obtained by The Independent shows 201 clinical negligence claims against the trust’s maternity services since 2010, with almost half lodged in the last four years.
Of the 84 closed cases, the NHS paid out £79.3m in compensation, and a further £12.3m in legal costs. The true value of the negligence claims is likely to be significantly higher as data may exclude future payments to support the lives of disabled children.
Documents show that key medical notes were missing, completely inaccurate or even never made, with the trust failing to properly investigate some deaths for months and, in instances when it did, details were wrong or reviews were changed by senior management to lessen the criticism. Last year, the Care Quality Commission identified a failure of staff to “interpret, classify and escalate” concerning heart rate traces for babies.
The avoidable deaths and injuries combined with fears of a lack of action have drawn parallels with maternity units at Shrewsbury and East Kent hospitals, both of which are the subject of independent inquiries.
Endurance Arthur, Co-Head of our Medical Negligence team commented: “The story has sickening echoes of the tragedies which occurred at the Shrewsbury Maternity hospital and East Kent NHS trust in which grief-stricken parents forced to fight to find out the truth about what happened to their child. Repeated incidents of substandard care were followed by attempts to cover up and a failure to learn from previous mistakes.”
“The difference here is that in 2018 midwives on the unit at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre wrote to their bosses raising concerns that staffing levels were woefully inadequate and could be "the cause of a potential disaster". It seems their letter was chillingly prescient.”
“Many families have suffered avoidable harm with dead or very seriously injured mothers and babies leading to millions of pounds in compensation payable by the NHS.”
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For the full investigation please read the report from The Independent.
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