Doctor is cleared of misconduct over baby’s stillbirth

A DISCIPLINARY panel has cleared a doctor of misconduct over care prior to the tragic stillbirth of a baby.

The panel ruled the General Medical Council had provided insufficient evidence to prove failings by Grace Barden, who was in her first year of specialist training in obstetrics when Joseph Steel was born at Pontefract General Infirmary on October 31, 2007.

It decided to continue a fitness to practise hearing against consultant on call Catherine Reiss.

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The tribunal has heard concerns from Marianne Steel and her husband John about her prolonged labour before their son was stillborn after an emergency caesarian.

Dr Barden faced charges she failed to recognise Joseph was in distress, carry out a blood test, discuss the case with Miss Reiss, or conduct his immediate delivery.

Panel chairman Clive Richards said it was clear from medical notes she was concerned by Joseph’s heartbeat. She had made a “clear plan” of action and did not need to discuss the case with Miss Reiss.

Medical notes later showed she intended to carry out a blood test but this was changed following discussion with Miss Reiss and she “could not go against the decision of the consultant” and as such it followed that an immediate delivery was not indicated.

The panel also considered evidence from the hospital that “no fault was attributed to Dr Barden” in the management of the labour.

Katie Gollop, counsel for Dr Barden, had told the hearing a question over her fitness to practise “simply doesn’t arise”.

“That is not to say that she does not have the utmost regret about what happened to Joseph and the ongoing devastation that Mr and Mrs Steel are clearly suffering,” she added.

The panel rejected a request to halt the case against Miss Reiss although it struck out a charge that she failed to personally carry out the caesarian as there had been no intention to carry one out.

The panel, sitting in Manchester, will next week continue hearing remaining charges that she did not at all times provide a consultant presence on the labour ward, failed to advise Dr Barden Joseph needed delivering immediately, check on his mother or review his heart trace.