Matilda's Law: Heartbroken parents of baby girl who died of brain damage campaign for urgent hospital changes

They should have been planning for what would have been their daughter’s third birthday - a day filled with memories of the happy months gone by, sharing stories of their little girl.

But for Andy and Whitney Pickup the last three years have been filled with heartache, devastation and excruciating pain that no parent should have to endure after their daughter Matilda tragically died of brain damage when she was just nine days old following a traumatic labour and emergency cesarean section.

The couple, from Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, are now launching Matilda’s Law after an inquest - held last week - heard various opportunities were missed during Matilda’s birth at Harrogate District Hospital in the early hours of July 3, 2018, including vital delays in delivering the baby girl via an emergency cesarean when her heart rate dropped to dangerous levels.

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The inquest, which returned a narrative verdict, concluded Matilda died on July 12, 2018 as a result of severe brain injury due to lack of oxygen. The coroner said intrapartum (medical intervention) delay and fetal bradycarida (when a baby’s heart rate falls to less than 110 beats per minute) added to her cause of death.

For Andy and Whitney Pickup the last three years have been filled with heartache, devastation and excruciating pain that no parent should have to endure after their daughter Matilda tragically died of brain damage when she was just nine days old.

Mr and Mrs Pickup say that if Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust had had access to her previous medical notes from the birth of their first child Charlie in 2015 in Leeds, which included a complicated labour, failed forceps delivery and emergency cesarean, the outcome for Matilda would have been very different.

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'Missed opportunities' in baby's brain damage death after Harrogate District Hos...

An investigation by Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust following Matilda's death revealed it had failed to obtain Mrs Pickup’s previous maternity and delivery notes, and had also carried out inadequate protocol when informing Mrs Pickup of the safety of a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).

The investigation revealed there had been “justifiable attempts” made for a safe natural delivery, but awareness of the time of the whole situation was taking was “lost or not appreciated”.

Andy and Whitney Pickup are campaigning for Matilda’s Law which would make it mandatory for hospital trusts across the country to have access to previous medical notes from other hospitals.

Mrs Pickup, 33, said: “Throughout all of this I have had this pain and it is such a horrible feeling that I would not wish on anyone.

“We are focusing on Matilda’s Law for her, we want everyone to know what happened to her and we don’t want her death to be in vain. We need to stop anyone else going through what we have."

Matilda was transferred to a special neonatal intensive care unit in Bradford following her birth, but further tests revealed extensive brain damage and the family were given the devastating news that there was nothing that could be done to save her.

Matilda was then transferred to Martin House Children's Hospice in Wetherby for her final hours with her parents on July 12, 2018, where she passed away with them at her side.

Matilda Pickup tragically died of brain damage when she was just nine days old following a traumatic labour and emergency cesarean section.

Mrs Pickup added: “Our life was just turned upside down.

"We had to carry on for Charlie. If we hadn't had him, I don’t know what we would have done. We didn’t want him to see us constantly upset and we didn’t want him to miss out on anything, so we just had to get on with things. It would have been a completely different story if we didn’t have him.”

The Pickup family have been supported throughout their ordeal by legal firm Irwin Mitchell.

Specialist medical negligence lawyer Victoria Moss said: “Whitney and Andy lost Matilda in such a tragic way and are understandably still heartbroken, particularly after hearing everything again at the inquest.

“The past few years have been very difficult for the couple who are continuing to grieve for their daughter while holding many questions over her death, but we’re pleased to have helped provide them with the answers they deserve.

“The findings over the past few days demonstrate the need for improvements, in particular regarding the sharing of patient notes, and we now urge that the hospital trusts work together to implement these fully.

Harrogate MP Andrew Jones is also supporting the family with Matilda's Law.

He said: "When I first met Whitney and Andy in February 2019 they told me the sad story of their daughter Matilda, I was struck by how they were now seeking to make something positive and lasting from something so personal and painful. They want to make sure that other families do not experience the trauma that they have. I respect that very much.

"I took the case up with the NHS, and as a result Whitney and Andy contributed to the national NHS Maternity Transformation Programme and met with its head. I was so pleased when they gave me a positive report of their meeting, and am keen to help with the campaign to achieve change, change in Matilda's name. It has to be right to use and share more information to save lives. I look forward to meeting Whitney and Andy again."

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust carried out a full investigation following Matilda's death and say vital improvements have been made, including further training of staff and an update to the VBAC policy.

Dr Jacqueline Andrews, medical director of Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust said: “We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Matilda. Following Matilda’s death, the Trust carried out an in-depth investigation, the details of which have been shared with the family and HM Coroner before and during the inquest.

“Following this investigation and as part of our wider and ongoing commitment to providing high quality care to all of our patients, we have already made extensive improvements to our processes and training. Again, this was fully shared with the family and HM Coroner during the inquest.”