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Our baby’s heart stopped for 19 minutes: Scandal-hit hospital admits failures in birth of boy

Alice and Lewis Jones with Ronnie, who suffered a catastrophic brain injury during his birth  (Osbornes Law)
Alice and Lewis Jones with Ronnie, who suffered a catastrophic brain injury during his birth (Osbornes Law)

Alice and Lewis Jones were forced to watch their 18-month-old baby die in front of them after a failure by a scandal-hit NHS trust left him with a “catastrophic brain injury” following his birth.

Their son Ronnie was one of hundreds of babies who have died following errors by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital, where the largest NHS maternity scandal to date was previously uncovered by The Independent.

Two years later, Mr and Mrs Jones are calling for the Supreme Court to overturn a controversial decision in February which ruled bereaved relatives could not claim compensation over the psychological impact of seeing a loved one die, even if it was caused by medical negligence.

It comes after the trust admitted to failings in a letter to the parents’ lawyers.

Ronnie was born at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford in July 2020.

Just 24 hours before this, his parents said, they had sought help from the hospital with concerns he wasn’t moving enough.

Staff said there was no cause for concern, but it would later be found they had not properly read the CTG (Cardiotocography) report, which shows a baby’s heart rate.

Convinced something wasn’t right, the Joneses returned to the hospital the next day and, following another CTG report, Ms Jones was rushed to have an emergency C-section.

Alice Jones says she was shocked to be offered a ‘do not resuscitate’ order for Ronnie (Osbornes Law)
Alice Jones says she was shocked to be offered a ‘do not resuscitate’ order for Ronnie (Osbornes Law)

Tragically Ronnie’s heart stopped for 19 minutes following his birth and he was left with devastating injuries including cerebral palsy, muscle spasms, seizures, chronic lung disease and an inability to swallow which meant he had to be fed through a tube.

Ms Jones said: “I was told I would have to have a caesarean section, but I was repeatedly told to stay calm and that I would soon have my baby in my arms... They were initially waiting as someone else was in surgery, but eventually decided to use the emergency theatre.

“I was put under and when I woke up, I was in an empty room. I started screaming, ‘where’s my baby?’

“We didn’t realise the true extent of it until later when we were offered the option of a ‘do not resuscitate’ order, which was just unthinkable.”

Despite doctors thinking he would not survive, Ronnie lived for 18 months before he died from pneumonia in November 2021.

The trust has since admitted that had the C-section been carried out sooner it is likely that Ronnie would have been born in a healthier condition and that he is not likely to have died in the circumstances he did. It has also admitted breaches in the interpretation of the initial CTG reading.

Lewis Jones gave up his job to look after Ronnie (Osbornes Law)
Lewis Jones gave up his job to look after Ronnie (Osbornes Law)

A major inquiry into Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust last year revealed 131 babies were stillborn and 84 suffered brain damage between 2000 and 2019 following failures in care.

The inquiry, which looked at 1,592 claims of harm, came two years after The Independent revealed more than a dozen women and 40 babies had died during childbirth at the trust.

The NHS faces another maternity inquiry into poor care, this time at Nottingham University Hospital Foundation Trust, which was exposed by The Independent in 2021 and will review the cases of 2,000 families. The inquiry is being led by Donna Ockenden, who also led the Shrewsbury review.

Ronnie’s birth in 2020 fell outside of the Ockenden review and his parents have warned it showed failures were still occurring despite warnings made during the inquiry.

Within the Ockenden inquiry, multiple cases of staff failing to recognise and act upon CTG training were found, and the final report recommended all hospitals have systems to ensure staff are trained and up to date in CTG and emergency skills.

The report also said the NHS should make CTG training mandatory and that clinicians must not work in labour wards or provide childbirth care without it.

A CTG measures a baby’s heart and monitors conditions in the uterus and is an important measure before birth and during labour to observe the baby for any signs of distress.

Ms Jones, who is also a mother to Dougie, two, and Mina, one, said: “We knew about the Ockenden review, but everything at Telford was new and so I think we just assumed that lessons had been learned, the same thing wouldn’t happen to us.”

Ronnie’s parents are campaigning to reverse the Supreme Court which ruled that “secondary victims” – including parents who are not directly harmed by the birth are not eligible to bring claims for psychiatric injury following medical negligence.

Following Ronnie’s birth, Mr Jones gave up work to train to support his son as he needed round-the-clock care.

Since his son’s death, Mr Jones has been unable to return to work and has been diagnosed with severe depression. He said: “I just feel like I don’t matter at all.

“I watched Ronnie pass away in front of me, I can’t just pick myself up and carry on as before, but someone somewhere in a room has decided that’s exactly what I should be doing, that I don’t deserve to be compensated for any loss of earnings, even though none of this was our fault.”

The pair have started a petition calling for the Supreme Court to give equal rights to parents who have witnessed the death of a child.

Jodi Newton, a clinical negligence specialist at Osbornes Law who is representing the family, said: “This case shows that the mistakes highlighted by Donna Ockenden in her review were still being repeated as recently as 2020, which raises serious questions about how much the Trust has actually done to change and how much more needs to be done before any further lives are needlessly lost.”

Dr John Jones, medical director at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, said:We offer our sincere condolences to the family over the loss of their son, Ronnie. We recognise there were failings in the care we provided and we are truly sorry.

“We are unable to comment further as this is an ongoing legal case.”