Horrifying birth trauma stories of Nottingham mums revealed in new inquiry report

Sarah and Jack Hawkins pictured at home in Nottingham.
Jack and Sarah Hawkins described how, despite Sarah experiencing contractions for six days, she was refused admission to the maternity unit -Credit:Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post

A parliamentary inquiry into birth trauma has revealed some of the harrowing stories of families affected by maternity failings at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) Trust. These were described as "uniformly horrifying", with nearly 1,900 cases currently being investigated by Donna Ockenden as part of a maternity services review at the trust.

Seven families recalled the disturbing accounts of medical neglect that led to babies dying or being injured, as well as one mother being injured. Jack and Sarah Hawkins described how, despite Sarah experiencing contractions for six days, she was refused admission to the maternity unit.

The staff's failure to perform basic checks led to their baby daughter Harriet being stillborn, with the hospital falsely telling the couple that the baby had died from an infection. Sarah said: "The reason she was a stillbirth was because I had such negligent care that she couldn’t take a breath."

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Jack added: "Not a single person has been held to account in any way whatsoever by the regulatory bodies. All of these are manslaughter, failure of duty of care, failure of duty of candour."

Natalie Needham's son Kouper died only one day after being born due to respiratory problems. The mother said a midwife had wrongly stated on the infant's discharge papers that she'd seen him have a four-ounce bottle and that she was "happy and content that he was established feeding".

After being arrested on suspicion of murder, Natalie and her husband were not told for six months that they were in the clear. She also mistakenly received pictures of Kouper's postmortem in the post.

Felicity Benyon had her healthy bladder removed during an emergency caesarean after being wrongly told that the placenta percreta had covered her bladder and that she would have lost it anyway. A urologist then told her that the mistake had been covered up.

Another mother, Sarah Sisson, was accused of having Munchausen by Proxy after her son suffered brain damage at birth. The hospital tried to rid itself of responsibility for the baby's injuries, and therefore accused Sarah of inventing his injuries.

Kimberley Errington’s son Teddy died after the hospital failed to carry out monitoring for post-natal hypoglycaemia. Carly Wesson and Carl Evlington were advised to terminate the pregnancy after a test indicated their daughter would not have survived much beyond birth due to a condition.

After complaining about their treatment, a further investigation was carried out by the hospital, revealing that there had been nothing wrong with the baby. No one has been held accountable for the errors.

Numerous mistakes made during labour, including a failure to monitor the baby's heart rate, led to the death of Sarah Andrew's daughter, Wynter. Parents told the inquiry they felt it was important for hospitals to be subject to greater accountability than they are at present.

Donna Ockenden, chair of the Independent Review of Maternity Services at NUH, said: "Leaders across maternity services report continuous requests for information from multiple bodies responsible for ‘oversight’ of maternity care in the UK. Frequently the requests are duplicated or only very slightly different showing that there is ineffective coordination between these multiple bodies.

"This is not efficient and wastes time. The system of maternity service oversight must be streamlined and made more effective."

Anthony May, chief executive at Nottingham University Hospitals, said: "The Birth Trauma Inquiry report published today is an important milestone in improving maternity experiences. The report reiterates the importance of listening to and respecting women and families in maternity care.

"We will read the report carefully and learn what we can from it as we continue to improve our services. I recognise that a number of families involved in the Independent Review into Maternity Services at NUH have taken the time to contribute to the inquiry, and I am grateful to them for sharing their stories.

"We are committed to supporting the ongoing independent review, led by Donna Ockenden, and to engaging with those families involved. We know we have let down women and families.

"We are acting on the feedback we receive from Donna, as we continue our efforts to improve. In September the CQC improved the rating of our maternity services. We have further to go, but it is encouraging that our independent regulators are seeing evidence of improvements."