Coroner rules NHS failing led to baby’s death

Michael Wright and Helen Ibbitson at their home near Leeds
Michael Wright and Helen Ibbitson at their home near Leeds
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A BABY girl who died after suffering severe head injuries during childbirth at one of Yorkshire’s top hospitals would have lived if danger signs had been acted on, a coroner has ruled.

Betsy Wright died as a result of the force used as doctors made seven attempts to extract her during a Caesarean section on her mother Helen Ibbitson at St James’s Hospital in Leeds.

An inquest in Wakefield heard Betsy’s head became lodged in Miss Ibbitson’s pelvis.

But the hearing was told a scanning machine monitoring Betsy’s heart rate had been indicating there was a problem as long as three-and-a-half hours before the Caesarean was carried out at 10.50am on June 19 last year.

The coroner heard a doctor should have been alerted to examine Miss Ibbitson, but was not.

Recording a narrative verdict, assistant deputy coroner Mary Burke said: “If such a review had been undertaken at 9am it is likely Miss Ibbitson would have undergone an instrumental delivery and Betsy Wright would have been delivered and it is likely she would not have suffered fatal injuries and she would have survived.”

After the hearing, Miss Ibbitson, 36, and her partner Michael Wright, 30, of Greengates, Bradford, said: “We feel let down and abandoned by the NHS. It is absolutely appalling that this can happen in this day and age. There was a catalogue of errors from start to finish.”

Miss Ibbitson added: “This has happened now and we have got to pick up the pieces.

“But the public needs to know that 18 months later this is still going on. She was a perfectly healthy baby, I was perfectly healthy, it was a low risk pregnancy. She should be here and we should be preparing for her second Christmas.”

When she went into labour, the maternity unit at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) – her chosen hospital – was closed.

At St James’s, the couple said warning signs from a monitor of their daughter’s heart rate were not acted on.

“It was just horrific. Everything that could’ve gone wrong did,” said Miss Ibbitson.

When doctors attempted to deliver Betsy by Caesarean, she suffered severe head injuries, including a fractured skull and internal bleeding.

Her parents were further upset by problems with care after Betsy died when they were not offered bereavement counselling – despite staff involved being given extra support because they were so traumatised.

Miss Ibbitson said: “I’m trying to get on with my life and I’m trying to build a life for us but it’s such a struggle knowing that she should be here – knowing that if she’d come on a different day or LGI had been open, she would still be here.”

A Leeds Teaching Hospitals spokesman expressed “very sincere condolences” for the family’s tragic loss.

“The inquest and the trust’s own internal investigation have highlighted a number of lessons from this very sad set of circumstances which we have fully taken on board. The trust wishes to apologise to Betsy’s parents for the shortcomings in care that were identified. We can assure them that appropriate action has been taken to improve practice in the relevant areas.”

A report into her death said maternity services in Leeds were “not sufficient” to deal with the growing birth rate, leading to unit closures at times of peak demand.

It said the outcome “might have been different had a more senior consultant been involved” and admitted the support given to Miss Ibbitson afterwards had been “non-existent”.

Hospital chiefs agreed in April to switch all the city’s maternity services to the infirmary in the next five years.

Mr Wright, along with Miss Ibbitson’s brother Paul, are running the Abbey Dash in Leeds on November 18 in memory of Betsy. To donate to their fundraising for neonatal death charity Sands, go to