Record £2.8m payout for NHS stillbirth errors: Couple whose unborn baby died following series of blunders get huge compensation payout
A couple whose baby was stillborn following a series of blunders by NHS staff have received £2.8million in compensation.
The out-of-court settlement – the largest for a stillbirth clinical negligence case in the UK – was agreed five years after Sarah and Jack Hawkins’ daughter Harriet died.
Physiotherapist Mrs Hawkins spent six days in labour but was repeatedly sent home from hospital or told not to come in. In April 2016, Harriet was finally delivered, nine hours after she had been pronounced dead in the womb. Bosses at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust, where both parents worked, blamed an infection.
But after a battle for justice by Mr and Mrs Hawkins, an independent report identified 13 mistakes leading to the ‘almost certainly preventable’ tragedy.
The out-of-court settlement – the largest for a stillbirth clinical negligence case in the UK – was agreed five years after Sarah and Jack Hawkins’ (pictured) daughter Harriet died
Both were so traumatised that they have had to leave Nottingham and neither is able to return to work. Probes into the trust – whose two maternity units are rated inadequate – have since revealed that dozens of babies and mothers have died or come to harm under its care.
Mrs Hawkins, 36, said yesterday: ‘No money will ever replace Harriet. Nor would we have gone down this route if we had been listened to, believed and heard.
‘The continual victim blaming has left us with significant psychiatric injuries and unable to return to work at NUH or the NHS at present.
‘NUH killed my daughter and ruined the career I loved and worked so hard to get.’ Mr Hawkins, 51, a consultant and the trust’s clinical director for improvement at the time, said: ‘When Harriet died, the maternity leaders and the hospital leaders were all very soon aware we knew she should be alive. Their behaviour should have been to admit and apologise, to learn everything they could from us and to cherish her existence with better care.’
After Mrs Hawkins felt her first contraction on April 12, 2016, she was sent home from Queen’s Medical Centre hospital with painkillers.
After Mrs Hawkins felt her first contraction on April 12, 2016, she was sent home from Queen’s Medical Centre hospital with painkillers
She later collapsed from excruciating pain but was told her contractions were not close enough for her to be admitted.
Shortly after midnight on April 16 she asked to come in for gas and air or an epidural but was told it wouldn’t be available until the birth was more advanced. She was admitted hours later and given diamorphine but wasn’t examined and was sent home at 6.30am.
The amniotic sac started to bulge through Mrs Hawkins’ birth canal in the early hours of April 17 but she was told admissions had been halted due to understaffing.
The couple were told to contact Nottingham City Hospital where a ‘dismissive’ midwife initially refused to see her. When the couple were finally allowed in, staff were unable to find the baby’s heartbeat.
It later emerged Mrs Hawkins had been suffering a ‘dysfunctional’ labour, which required emergency medical attention.
NUH apologised for the failures in care and said it had made improvements in its maternity suites
She was suffering from fluid retention and was unable to expel urine, preventing the labour from progressing. A ‘root cause analysis investigation report’ published in 2018 found errors including delays in applying foetal monitoring, omission of important information on an antenatal advice sheet and failure to record or pass on information.
Mr and Mrs Hawkins, who had to leave Harriet in a mortuary for two years while the dispute raged on, left Nottingham as they ‘could not bear’ being close to the hospital.
They moved to London, where they had a daughter, Lottie, in November 2019.
Their lawyer, Janet Baker, from Switalskis Solicitors, said: ‘Sarah and Jack now suffer from ongoing depression and PTSD and have been unable to work.’
An investigation by Channel 4 News and The Independent this year found 46 babies had suffered brain damage and 19 were stillborn in Nottingham between 2010 and 2020. There have also been 15 deaths of mothers and babies.
NUH apologised for the failures in care and said it had made improvements in its maternity suites.