Parents ask if Easter staffing at ‘inadequate’ hospital unit in Yorkshire contributed to baby’s death

The parents of a premature baby who died in a neonatal unit shortly after it was rated as inadequate are asking whether staffing issues over a bank holiday contributed to their son’s death, an inquest has heard.

Cassian Curry died two days after he was born at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ Jessop Wing maternity unit in April last year

Cassian Curry died two days after he was born at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ Jessop Wing maternity unit on April 3 2021. He was born at 28 weeks and weighed 1lb 10oz (750g).

In a statement read to the hearing in Sheffield, Cassian’s mother, Karolina Curry, said she and her husband James had a number of questions about her son’s treatment, including reports that the unit was understaffed due to it being the Easter weekend and that medics failed to act on her concerns, including about her son’s raised heart rate.

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Mrs Curry said: “We still can’t get our heads around any of this and how a bank holiday means your child dies.

“We cannot understand why they can’t have life-saving checks or the right number of staff because of a bank holiday.”

Mrs Curry said her pregnancy with Cassian was “a miracle for us” as it came after six cycles of IVF, which was needed due to her husband’s cancer.

She said her son was placed on total parental nutrition (TPN), which is routine for such premature babies, and doctors inserted an umbilical venous catheter (UVC) to deliver this.

The inquest will examine whether the whether the UVC had been incorrectly sited too close to Cassian’s heart and also whether there was a failure to review its position and re-site it.

Mrs Curry said she twice noted that her son’s heart rate increased to more than 200 beats per minute but was told by medical staff that it was nothing to worry about.

She said she also worried that Cassian had not produced any bowel movements and this was a sign that he was not feeding properly.

Mrs Curry said in her statement: “I said to James that something wasn’t right. He assured me that he was in safe hands.”

She said she got more and more worried but a nurse told her “It’s all right, love, it’s normal.”

Mr and Mrs Curry sat together at Sheffield’s Medico-Legal Centre listening to the statement, which was read by assistant coroner Abigail Combes.

In it, Mrs Curry described her horror when she went down the intensive care unit to find doctors battling in vain to save her son.

She said: “I tried to scream but nothing came out.”

She added: “I looked at the doctors and nurses and I can only describe the looks on their faces as horrified.”

And she said: “I couldn’t speak. I was opening my mouth but nothing was coming out. James said it was like a silent scream.”

Mrs Curry, who said she is a Roman Catholic, said she was horrified that when she asked a priest to baptise her son in hospital he brought holy water in a sample bottle.

She also criticised the bereavement services she was offered when they were “shocked and furious” and “lost and desperate”.

“We still feel the guilt today for unknowingly putting him in so much danger,” she said.

Mrs Curry said: “The whole process from when Cassian was born to his death had just seemed chaotic.”

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) identified significant patient safety concerns in March 2021 – a month before Cassian died – which saw the rating of the maternity services at the trust downgraded to inadequate.

Earlier this month, the inspectors announced that the trust had failed to make the required improvements to services when it visited in October and November, despite warnings.

The service did not have enough midwifery staff with the “right qualifications, skills, training and experience to keep women safe from avoidable harm and to provide the right care and treatment”, the CQC said.

Coroner Ms Combes said the CQC’s findings will be referred to in the inquest but stressed that the two inquiries had different remits.

The inquest is expected to conclude on Friday.