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Couple’s distress at baby’s ‘avoidable’ stillbirth at Leeds hospital

Deborah Horner

Deborah Horner

After suffering the devastation of a miscarriage, Deborah and Richard Horner were anxiously awaiting the safe arrival of their daughter.

But her delivery at a Leeds hospital turned to tragedy after a catalogue of errors led to baby Abbie Horner being stillborn.

Now Deborah and Richard Horner have received an undisclosed settlement from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust over the death of their only child after taking legal action.

A midwife involved in the incident was also suspended from working for 12 months by the nursing regulator over her failings.

Mr and Mrs Horner, who live near Selby, say they will never recover from the heartbreak of losing their baby.

Mrs Horner said: “To this day we are still shocked and appalled by what we went through and the tragic loss of our daughter Abbie.

“To know that our baby would have been born healthy had it not been for the failures to report her abnormal heartbeat is incredibly difficult to come to terms with.

“Everyone makes mistakes but there are lives at stake and my baby deserved the best possible care but, sadly, both she and I were failed.”

Mrs Horner’s pregnancy was considered high risk as she was aged 43 and because she had previously suffered a miscarriage.

However no delivery or induction plan was agreed for her and during the labour at St James’s Hospital, there were a raft of problems, mainly around the reading of vital monitoring equipment which was recording the baby’s heartbeat.

Abbie was delivered stillborn on August 17, 2011, following an emergency Caesarean section.

An internal investigation into her death by hospital bosses found errors in care by various midwives and medical staff.

These included failures by experienced midwife Linda Marks, who was later suspended from, practicing for 12 months after allegations were found proved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council at a hearing in January.

She had already retired from the profession.

The hospitals trust has confirmed that if it had not been for the failures, it is likely that Abbie would have been born alive. A 14-point action plan has been drawn up to improve standards.

However Abbie’s distraught parents say that they would like a full apology from hospital heads and assurance that the action plan has been implemented and shared across the NHS to prevent future tragedies.

Mrs Horner, 46, said: “Nothing will ever bring our daughter back but if they can apologise and prove that lessons have been learnt and shared across the NHS then hopefully we can start to put this horrendous ordeal behind us and try and rebuild our lives.”

Kelly Morris, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell – which represented the couple – said: “Despite having the technology to identify when a baby’s heartbeat is irregular or weak through the CTG machine, changes were not reported correctly for a period of eight hours which prevented the appropriate action, such as an emergency caesarean, being taken sooner.

“This meant that Abbie suffered catastrophic brain damage.

“Abbie’s death was completely avoidable and we hope that the action plan drawn up by the Trust has been shared throughout the NHS to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated and patient safety is protected.”

The head of Leeds hospitals said care for Abbie Horner “fell short” and apologised.

Chief executive Julian Hartley said: “The events leading up to the loss of Abbie fell far short of the high standards of care we normally provide and for this I am very sorry.

“A full investigation led by a senior doctor was undertaken into the failure to recognise and escalate concerns in the labour care. This report has been shared with Mr and Mrs Horner and I can reassure them that we are committed to using this to ensure we learn from every aspect of what happened.

“Quite rightly our clinical staff have to be accountable for their actions. The midwife concerned was immediately removed from practice and referred to the Local Supervisory Authority Midwifery Officer. Subsequently she chose to retire so is no longer employed by us.

“In 2012 our head of midwifery and lead consultant met personally with Mr and Mrs Horner to discuss their concerns and to express their profound condolences and apologies.

“I am very sad to hear that Mr and Mrs Horner feel they have not had an apology from the Trust, as we have done our best to provide this. As chief executive I would like to reiterate how sorry I am on behalf of everyone concerned in this tragic case.”

 

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