Our client, a 38-year-old woman from Canterbury, Kent, suffered significant psychological injuries in consequence of a traumatic birth of her second child.
When her waters broke she attended the Canterbury Birthing Unit at the Kent & Canterbury Hospital. The Unit misread the CTG as concerning and blue lighted her to the William Harvey Hospital (‘WHH’) for assessment.
There it was correctly concluded that the CTG was reassuring. A plan was made, however, to induce delivery 2 days later. Our client’s request for immediate induction was refused.
She attended at WHH the following morning (around 15 hours after her waters had broken) as she was concerned about reduced foetal movements and was herself feeling unwell. She again requested induction. That request was declined because the labour ward was busy and the plan to induce the following day was confirmed. Our client was told she could return that afternoon, however, to see if they were less busy and could accept her for induction.
That afternoon our client returned to WHH, feeling increasingly unwell. She was examined by an obstetrician, was advised that it was fine for her to go home and to return the following morning for the planned induction. Again, our client’s request for induction was refused – despite the fact that by now it was more than 24 hours after her waters had broken and this was thus against NICE guidance.
By the time our client returned to WHH that evening, she was very poorly with a high temperature. She was examined and diagnosed with chorioamnionitis. The foetal heart rate was also raised. Antibiotics were employed and induction attempted. It was decided, however, that a C-section was necessary and this took place on an emergency basis.
Our client’s baby was born without any injury, but our client suffered a significant psychiatric injury as a result of the treatment she received, the dismissiveness of the staff towards her and the emergency nature of the C-section.
Our psychiatric expert advised that she had suffered both a PTSD injury and an OCD injury (the latter being partially caused by the alleged negligent treatment).
The Defendant’s psychiatric expert agreed there was an element of OCD, but disagreed that there was a PTSD injury.
Our obstetric expert concluded that on the morning after the waters had broken, as she was feeling unwell and was nearing the 24 hour cut off for induction, even if the labour ward had been busy at the time, she could still have been admitted and monitored until such time as the ward was less busy, such that induction would have led to a successful natural delivery.
Our obstetric expert also concluded that on the afternoon in question there was a failure to properly examine our client and diagnose chorioamnionitis, and at that point also induction could have been undertaken and a natural delivery achieved.
The Defendant – the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust – denied liability for the claim, stating throughout that the labour ward had been busy on the morning in question and that it had been acceptable to plan induction within the time frame that they did.
Despite this denial of liability, the Defendant made increasing offers over a 21-month period of £5,000, £65,000, and £87,500.
It took the Defendant more than 12 months to respond to our request for disclosure of the number of women on the labour ward on the morning in question, but when they eventually did respond it was clear that the labour ward had in fact been relatively quiet and not busy as they had stated throughout.
The Defendant’s expert was then forced to concede that, as the labour ward was not busy, there was no good reason for our client to have been sent home on the morning in question. Their expert further admitted that, if our client had been kept in hospital, induction would have begun by the early afternoon leading to a natural delivery.
In addition, the Defence expert agreed that the obstetrician had not properly examined our client and that she should have been kept in hospital, would have undergone earlier induction, and would ‘possibly’ have had a successful natural delivery.
Despite all of this, the Defendant still failed to formally admit liability.
The parties agreed to hold a joint settlement meeting, where settlement was reached in the sum of £135,000 just 7 weeks before the Trial was due to begin.
Alex Tengroth, who had conduct of this case, said:
“I am extremely pleased that we managed to secure a good settlement for my client, not only because the Defendant defended the claim on what turned out to be a false premise, but also because my client’s original firm of solicitors had declined to take the claim forward due to a perceived lack of prospects of success.
It is a shame that the Defendant dragged the matter out for so long, and that they failed to formally accept liability, but I very much hope that the conclusion of the litigation will help my client to put this matter behind her.”