Maternity unit slammed after baby born with brain damage

EDINBURGH'S main maternity unit has been slammed after a baby was born with brain damage more than a week after the mother's complaints that something was wrong were dismissed.

An official report into the case has ordered NHS Lothian to apologise to the family involved for the "inadequate standard of care" and make a series of improvements to prevent it happening again.

The mother eventually had an emergency Caesarean at the Simpson's Unit at the ERI and her child was born suffering "widespread brain haemorrhage".

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The child, now 18 months old, is said to be at risk of developing a long-term disability.

In its report, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman said the parents had repeatedly stated their concerns about the health of the unborn child to midwives up to eight days earlier but had been sent home. Staff were also accused of showing "dismissive attitudes and seeming disregard".

The report upheld complaints that the hospital:

• Failed to detect problems with the pregnancy and failed to carry out appropriate tests when the mother first attended complaining of heavy bleeding.

• Failed to take the parents' concerns and questions into account.

• Delayed performing the emergency Caesarean section.

NHS Lothian nurse director Melanie Hornett said today that lessons had been learned. We would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to (the mother] Ms A and her family," she said.

"This case highlights the importance of communications and interaction between staff and patients, even on a busy ward, and we have worked with staff to ensure questions are answered concisely and sensitively.

"We fully accept the recommendations made in the report and as part of our action plan we have increased the regularity of the audit of time taken from the decision to performing a Caesarean section."

The problems began when Ms A was 29 weeks pregnant and began bleeding heavily. She noticed that the foetus wasn't moving as it had been, and rushed to the ERI.

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Despite outlining to the midwife their extreme concern, she and her partner were sent home.

They returned the following day, but were told there were still no problems. A week later, the lack of movement persisted, and another midwife recommended she attend hospital. Hours later, the baby was delivered.

The findings of the report, while not blaming the hospital's actions for the poor health of the baby, did state that complications in the womb almost certainly developed between when the heavy bleeding began and birth.

The ombudsman also criticised the health board for making the woman wait more than treble the length of time between making the decision to perform an emergency Caesarean and conducting the operation.

The health board had stated at the time that the maternity ward was extremely busy, which is why the delay took place.