A couple whose child was stillborn after maternity staff made more than a dozen errors have received a £2.8m settlement, thought to be the largest payout of its kind.
Sarah Hawkins spent six days in labour at Nottingham City Hospital in April 2016, but her daughter Harriet was stillborn.
An external inquiry found that there were 13 failings by maternity staff in their care and concluded that Harriet’s death was “almost certainly preventable”.
An early investigation from the hospital found that there was “no obvious fault” in the care for Ms Hawkins and Harriet, and the couple were told that Harriet died from an infection.
However, Ms Hawkins and her husband Jack continued to investigate her death, and in 2018, a Root Cause Analysis Investigation Report found that it was likely that Harriet’s death could have been avoided.
The report found 13 errors in care, ranging from delays in administering the correct treatment to poor reporting of information.
The couple have now been awarded £2.8m, which their lawyers say is believed to be the highest damages ever awarded in a stillbirth case.
They both worked for Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS trust at the time of Harriet’s death, but have felt unable to return to their jobs their following the trauma of their loss.
Ms Hawkins said the couple were forced to keep Harriet’s body in a mortuary for two years to preserve “evidence”.
“I couldn’t grieve when [the trust] chose to say Harriet’s death was caused by an infection, rather than their own failures,” she said.
“Time after time families are contacting us, and every single time I get contacted my heart sinks.”
“We have had to fight to be heard. We are, at long last, heard. As too are many other families, yet sadly because there has been no proper accountability for such a long time now, there are many more yet to come forwards.”
Their lawyer, Janet Baker, said that the case was likely to cost the NHS more than £3.5m once legal fees were included.
“I believe that this is a cost which was unnecessary and could have been avoided if NUH had acknowledged responsibility for Harriet’s death straight away and had been open with Sarah and Jack.”
On publication of the report, the trust apologised for its errors and insisted that it would make major changes to its maternity practice.
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