A grieving Shropshire couple are calling for lessons to be learned after a Hospital Trust at the centre of one of the UK’s worst maternity scandals failed to deliver their baby two days before it was stillborn.
During a planned appointment at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital in 2018, Charlotte Jackson reported to staff she had lost fluid overnight, had severe stomach pain and her baby’s movement in the womb had reduced.
Charlotte was under consultant-led care as she was deemed to be a high-risk pregnancy. She said an anaesthetist, who told her the hospital was short-staffed, said she had probably wet the bed and did not seek a more senior review before sending her home.
Two days later she called the hospital concerned she had not felt her baby move since the previous lunchtime. Charlotte, of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, was told to attend hospital. Following tests, Charlotte and her partner James Harris, were told their baby Jacob was stillborn.
Charlotte was sent home and returned to hospital the following day to deliver Jacob.
Following their ordeal, Charlotte, 29, and James, 30, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate and help them access the specialist support they require.
The couple have now spoken for the first time about their loss. It comes after Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust admitted liability. Irwin Mitchell has secured the couple an undisclosed settlement.
Hospital Trust apologises
In a letter to Charlotte, Louise Barnett, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “The Trust recognises how serious the shortfall in your care was and the suffering this has caused you. I understand that Jacob could have been born healthy if we had arranged delivery earlier. I am very sorry that we let you and Jacob down.”
The Ockenden Review is investigating more than 1,800 maternity cases involving the Trust stretching back decades.
Irwin Mitchell is representing a number of parents who say they have suffered as a result of failings in maternity care at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. The legal experts are campaigning to improve maternity services nationally and have also contributed to the Health Committee’s Maternity Safety Call for Evidence.
Eleanor Giblin, specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell said:
“This is a tragic case in which totally avoidable failings in Charlotte’s care ended in devastating circumstances.
“The issues in Charlotte’s care echo many of the well-documented issues that have been highlighted in the Ockenden Review, including more senior doctors not having an overview of care.
“While nothing can ever make up for their loss we’re pleased that we have at least been able to provide Charlotte and James with the answers they deserve.
“We continue to hear a number of worrying first-hand stories from families about maternity care at the Trust. These coupled with other maternity scandals such as Morecambe Bay and East Kent Hospitals indicate a lot more needs to be done to improve maternity care.
“Patient safety should be the fundamental priority. We’ll continue to support the families we represent to provide them with all of the answers they deserve while continuing to campaign for improvements in maternity care.”
Trust failed to monitor and respond to mum’s concerns
Charlotte and James found out they were expecting Jacob on Mother’s Day 2018. Charlotte was deemed to be a high risk pregnancy because of diabetes. Over the coming months Charlotte attended hospital twice complaining of reduced movement from her baby and stomach pains.
At an appointment in October 2018 doctors recommended a caesarean was booked in at 38 weeks because of the expected size of Jacob.
On 22 October Charlotte attended hospital again reporting a second episode of reduced fetal movement. On 31 October she attended a pre-caesarean assessment during which Charlotte, who was 37 weeks pregnant, reported losing fluid, reduced movement and stomach pains. An anaesthetist said she had probably wet the bed and sent her home.
On 2 November she called Princess Royal saying she had not felt Jacob move since the previous day. After attending hospital she was told Jacob had died. Charlotte delivered him the following day.
During legal submissions, Irwin Mitchell argued that the Trust failed to arrange a caesarean by 31 October when Charlotte complained of reduced movement and stomach pains.
The Trust admitted it failed to adequately monitor and respond to Charlotte’s concerns. With better monitoring an early delivery would have been arranged.
Charlotte said: “When I found out I was expecting we were delighted. That it was Mother’s Day made it feel all the more special.
“Throughout my pregnancy with Jacob I was very positive in mood and was very much looking forward to being a mum again.
“I attended hospital a few times and attended various appointments but at no point did the staff seem like there was anything to be wary of. But that all changed during my pre-surgery assessment.
“I was quite worried and upset. Jacob had always been a very active baby so when I noticed that his movements were reduced I had a gut feeling that something was not right. However, I was shocked when I was told that it was a one off and I’d probably wet the bed.
“Despite my fears it seemed like they wanted me out of hospital because it was busy. That fear just grew over the next couple of days.
“When I went back to hospital I tried to tell myself everything was going to be fine but deep down I knew it was bad news.
“Giving birth to Jacob was absolutely horrific. It’s almost impossible to put into words the emotion of it all, knowing your baby had already died.”
In early 2020 Charlotte and James found out they were expecting again. Charlotte gave birth to son Ronnie-Jack in July 2020. Ronnie-Jack also has an older brother, Noah, aged six and a sister Elsie, aged five.
Charlotte added: “When we found out we were expecting again we were overcome with a mixture of emotions. My pregnancy was overshadowed by a constant anxiety every time I felt pain.
“It was just a huge relief when Ronnie-Jack was born and we got him home. I couldn’t believe he was with us and I had to keep pinching myself.
“However, the pain at losing Jacob remains as deep as it did when he died. I will always remember that awful day when I was told he had died.
“I have some very bad days where I feel the loss of Jacob very strongly. We call Jacob’s grave his “special garden”.
“When I recently took Noah and Ronnie-Jack there, they were laughing together and it suddenly struck me that there should be another child there and I became very upset. Noah has a friend called Jacob and there was a time when they were playing and I heard another parent shout “Jacob, Noah”. It struck me that it should be me shouting those two names together.
“We will never forget Jacob. He will always be part of our family and his brothers will grow up knowing all about him and how much we love him. It just breaks our hearts that he is not with his brothers causing mischief.
“We put our faith in the staff and were badly let down by them. That we are not alone in what happened to us makes it all the more shocking.
“Our hearts go out to all the other families who have been affected by maternity issues at these hospitals. That’s why we felt it was important to speak out. Nothing can bring Jacob back but what has happened to the families can never be forgotten and improvements in care need to be made.”
Last year the Ockenden review report into maternity care at Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals was published. It identified 34 areas where maternity care should be improved. This included 27 ‘actions for learning’ by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust and seven ‘immediate and essential actions’ not only for the Trust but for all maternity services across England.