Hospital probe after ‘potentially avoidable’ baby death

The Caithnes General in Wick.
The Caithnes General in Wick.
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AN investigation is under way into care at a Scottish maternity unit following the “potentially avoidable” death of a newborn baby from a suspected infection.

he infant, who has not been identified, died in the ward at Caithness General Hospital, in Wick, in recent weeks after a complicated delivery.

This is a very tragic case and our thoughts are with the family

Dr Rod Harvey

The tragic case was believed to have been caused by a severe infection, although a post mortem has yet to take place, NHS Highland confirmed.

Expectant mothers and newborns are now being transferred 170 miles to Raigmore Hospital, in Inverness, for specialist care, except in the most low-risk 
cases.

The temporary arrangement will be in place until a review is completed.

Dr Rod Harvey, medical director for NHS Highland, said: “This is a very tragic case and our thoughts and condolences are with the family. Regrettably our preliminary investigations have determined that this death was potentially avoidable had different arrangements been in place to ensure more timely and immediate access to advanced paediatric support facilities at Raigmore Hospital.”

The threshold for transfer to Raigmore Hospital pre-birth, during labour, birth and the postnatal period will be lower than normal with the result that more mothers will be transferred than under the current arrangements. Obstetric clinics and scans will continue as usual, as well as elective caesarean births.

The arrangements will remain in place until the NHS bosses have conducted a Significant Adverse Event Review, which is already under way.

Dr Harvey said: “While our initial review did not find any failings in the care provided by individual staff, it did highlight a number of issues concerning the current arrangements and protocols for neonatal paediatric risk assessment and support, which now need to be reviewed.”