Failures led to stillbirth of longed-for baby

A heartbroken couple who struggled to conceive for six years have been awarded an undisclosed payout after hospital staff failed to recognise vital signs their baby daughter, delivered stillborn, was in distress.

Wendy Pratt suffered heartbreak over the death of her unborn daughter whom she had struggled to conceive for six years. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Wendy and Chris Pratt, from Filey, were overjoyed to learn a course of IVF treatment had been successful in 2009 and that they were expecting a baby girl. But during the pregnancy midwives at Scarborough Hospital failed to carry out tests, which on the balance of probabilities, could have resulted in their daughter, being born alive.

Instead their longed-for daughter Matilda was delivered stillborn at 27 weeks and one day premature.

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Mrs Pratt, 36, a microbiologist, said: “No words can describe how devastating it was for Chris and I to lose Matilda; she was our first child and was so precious to us that we couldn’t believe she hadn’t made it. It felt like our world had fallen apart in front of us.

“I suffered from severe depression and I wasn’t able to focus on anything. I also no longer work in my job. Chris and I are still coming to terms with what happened to Matilda and I don’t think we will ever fully get over losing our first child.”

Evidence commissioned by the law firm Irwin Mitchell, who the couple instructed to investigate what more could have been done to help their baby, found that despite midwifery staff informing Mrs Pratt when she was just 20 weeks pregnant that her baby was smaller than expected and that she would need to be closely monitored, it was another seven weeks before a CTG, which records the heartbeat, and a scan was provided for her baby.

On April 17 2010 a CTG and two ultrasounds showed the baby had restricted growth and poor blood flow through the baby’s umbilical cord, yet staff sought no second opinion and Mrs Pratt was told she could go home. She readmitted herself because she was worried about her baby’s continued lack of movement. Another ultrasound was performed and on April 20 they were transferred to Leeds General Infirmary for another scan and a CTG.

The baby’s heart rate started to drop as Mrs Pratt was prepared for an emergency C-section. Matilda was delivered by emergency caesarean and could not be resuscitated.

York Teaching Hospital NHS Trust admitted that had a repeat CTG trace been performed during Mrs Pratt’s admission on April 17, Matilda would, on the balance of probabilities, have been born alive. They have now agreed to pay an undisclosed settlement to the couple.

Sarah Coles, a specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office, representing the couple, said: “This is a tragic case that has left Wendy and Chris absolutely devastated by the loss of their longed-for daughter Matilda.

“What is clear is that the midwives made a number of errors and failed to detect and act upon basic signs which highlighted things were not right and ultimately led to Matilda being stillborn.

“Whilst we welcome the admission of liability from the Trust and settlement, it remains very difficult and painful for the family to come to terms with the fact Matilda’s death could have been avoided.”

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust would like to take this opportunity to pass its sincerest apology to Mr and Mrs Pratt.

“Whilst we are pleased that a sum has been agreed, this was a personal tragedy for the family and we are very sorry when the care that our patients receive falls below the high standards we expect.

“Since these events, Scarborough Hospital has become part of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, an organisation that attaches the highest priority to safe care. Any events such as these are taken seriously and investigated to ensure that we take the opportunity to learn lessons.”