Health & Fitness UK's 'worst' maternity scandal: 'I begged for a C-section but the medics said no and I lost my precious boy'
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A mother whose baby died after he was born breech and she was allegedly denied a timely C-section is taking legal action against atrust described as being responsible for the "worst" ever NHS scandal.
A damning report found more than 90and mothers either died or suffered severe harm due to disastrous failings at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH).
Kamaljit Uppal says she was told her child was lying bottom first when she was five months pregnant and health professionals told her she would need a Caesarean. But when she went into labour, she claims medics told her she wasn't allowed one as instructions to have the operation wasn't in her medical notes.
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More than seven hours after her baby's foot had begun to show, the mother-of-three was eventually rushed for a C-section, but the infant, called Manpreet, died just a few hours after he was born. A post mortem confirmed he died as a result of a trapped vaginal breech delivery, according to Kamaljit's solicitors.
She told i: "I begged the midwife for a C-section and told her I was promised one at my antenatal appointments, but she said no. I feel my baby would be alive if I'd have had one quicker."
The Telford resident with her two children (Photo: Kamaljit Uppal)
An internal reportrevealed clinical malpractice was allowed to continue across four decades, with repeated failings by midwives, doctors and hospital chiefs.
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There were more than 600 cases being examined, and there were at least 42 babies and three mothers who died between 1979 and 2017. Another 51 infants were left with brain damage or disability after being deprived of oxygen at birth.
The review, led by maternity expert Donna Ockenden, found failures to recognise serious incidents and to learn from mistakes. There has been a lack of respect shown for families suffering bereavement with one mother who had just lost her child told to "keep the noise down" or leave the hospital. In another case, parents were not told their baby’s body had returned from a post-mortem examination and it decomposed so badly that they never got to say a final goodbye.
The report also reveals regulators were aware of problems as far back as 2007. The confidence of the Healthcare Commission, a forerunner to the Care Quality Commission, that improvements would be carried out was “misplaced”, it concluded.
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The situation bears all the hallmarks of, which led to the deaths of 16 babies and three mothers between 2004 and 2013.
Caesarean section 'safer'
There are more than 600 cases treated by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust being examined (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Kamaljit, from Telford, now 50, went into labour on 16 April 2003 at around 8.30pm at The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. She says a midwife said she could see the baby's foot at around 1am, but she wasn't taken for an emergency Caesarean until 8.30am.
"I was 35 and fit and healthy," she said. "Nobody even attempted to manually turn the baby around at all. I kept begging for a C-section and they kept saying no.
"There was only one doctor on duty. My baby had begun to show and he suddenly disappeared, I think for around 15 minutes to go help with another birth. It was only when the baby went into distress that they finally rushed me for a C-section but by then I believe the damage was done."
Breech is very common in early, but by near the end, only three to four in every 100 babies are still in the position, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).
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, if a woman's baby remains breech towards the end of pregnancy, she should be given the option of a Caesarean. Its guidelines state: "Research has shown that planned Caesarean section is safer for your baby than a vaginal breech birth. Caesarean section carries slightly more risk for you than a vaginal birth."
Manpreet was born floppy and medics spent 20 minutes resuscitating him. They got him breathing but he died a few hours later. Kamaljit says she still suffers depression 16 years later and has never received a penny in compensation for what happened to her son.
"The whole experience was so traumatic. After he died I had to spend the night on a ward full of screaming babies. A nurse came up to me asking what milk my baby had. I'm not surprised at all about the recent report. My life was never the same after that day. I lost my precious boy."
She says she experienced extreme anxiety when she fell pregnant four months later, and was helped through it by a kind midwife.
'Worst maternity scandal yet exposed'
Solicitor Kashmir Uppal says lessons have to be learned and individuals need to be held accountable (Photo: Shoosmiths)
Kashmir Uppal, a partner at Shoosmiths who is representing Kamaljit's claim and is no relation to her, said "this is clearly the worst maternity scandal yet exposed".
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"In addition to the appalling treatment, tragic loss of life and injuries needlessly suffered by mothers and babies, one of the concerns relates to the duration of these avoidable deaths – over some 42 years. There have clearly been systemic failings at SaTH. The push for natural births failed to take into account the risks for mother and child.
"Not only do lessons have to be learned to prevent any future tragedies of this nature, but there needs to be some individual accountability on the part of the doctors and midwives involved, and also the senior management under whose watch this pattern of woefully poor care was allowed to continue. There has to be better patient protection and a willingness to speak out when things go wrong, as they simply won’t go away."
SaTH said it could not comment on individual cases. But Paula Clark, interim chief executive at the trust, issued a general statement that read: “We have been working, and continue to work, with the independent review into our maternity services.
"On behalf of the trust, I apologise unreservedly to the families who have been affected. I would like to reassure all families using our maternity services that a lot has already been done to address the issues raised by previous cases.
“Our focus is to make our maternity service the safest it can be. We still have further to go but are seeing some positive outcomes from the work we have done to date.”
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