Thursday 27 January 2022
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Nottingham

Nottingham parents of baby who was stillborn receive £2.8m compensation from Nottingham University Hospitals

The parents of a baby girl who died in the womb following a series of mistakes in her care by staff at Nottingham City Hospital have been awarded £2.8m in compensation.

Baby Harriet Hawkins was stillborn in April 2016.

An external review into her care found her death was “almost certainly preventable”.

Parents Sarah and Jack Hawkins, who both previously worked for Nottingham University Hospitals, launched a legal case against the hospital trust which is now settled.

The Nottingham family’s solicitors say the award is believed to be the largest pay out for a stillbirth clinical negligence case.

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They said the sum has been reached “because of the considerable psychiatric injury caused by Harriet’s death and exacerbated by Nottingham University Hospital Trust’s (NUH) failure to be open and transparent about what happened”.

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NUH’s maternity services are currently rated ‘inadequate’ by inspectors and earlier this year it was revealed dozens of babies have died or been seriously injured during birth at the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital since 2010.

Because Harriet died before she was born, there was no inquest into her death, so the couple started their own investigations.

The Hawkins family said: “One of the big emotions is sadness that other people who have had this horrific thing happen to them have presumably not had fair compensation.

“Harriet died and that’s inexcusable – but the actions since then have compounded the damage to such an extent that we will never work for the NHS again.

“A lot of this money is for what I should’ve earned the last six years.

“If they listened to us and looked after us, we would be back at work and would probably be doing lectures to the new intake of junior doctors with Harriet’s story.

The couple added they still did not feel that the Trust had listened to their concerns.

Sarah Hawkins added that Harriet’s body had to be kept in a mortuary for two years ‘as evidence’.

An external report later said if Sarah and Harriet been bettered monitored by maternity staff, Harriet’s deterioration could have been spotted sooner and her life could have been saved.

In 2017 NUH issued an apology and acknowledged failings in Harriet’s care.

The Trust has been approached for further comment following the award of compensation to the Hawkins.

An investigation by Channel 4 News and the Independent earlier in 2021 reported 46 babies suffered brain injuries and 19 had been stillborn in Nottingham since 2010.

Sarah and Jack, along with a group of MPs, councillors and other parents, are now calling for an independent judge-led public inquiry into baby deaths at the trust.

The Chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee at Nottinghamshire County Council met Health Secretary Sajid Javid last month to back the calls.

Sarah said: “Time after time families are contacting us, and every single time I get contacted my heart sinks.  History is repeating itself over and over again.

“Harriet is not just a statistic, she is our daughter. No money will ever replace Harriet.

“Nor would we have gone down this route had we been listened to, believed and heard.”
Janet Baker, of Switalskis Solicitors who represented the couple, said: “£2.8 million is the highest damages award in a stillbirth case, with legal fees for both sides the total cost to the NHS is likely to be over £3.5m.

“I believe that this is a cost which was unnecessary and could have been avoided if NUH had acknowledged responsibility for Harriet’s death straight away and had been open with Sarah and Jack.”

A spokesperson at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, said: “We would like to reiterate our sincere apologies to Mr and Mrs Hawkins for failures in the care around the delivery of baby Harriet.

“Our Maternity Improvement Programme has introduced a number of improvements including better training and monitoring with renewed focus on the recruitment and retention of midwives and maternity teams to ensure that we offer the best services possible to every family in our care.” 

They added that they have enhanced training on fetal monitoring, recruited new midwives and doctors and encouraged teams to raise concerns and escalate problems.

 

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