East Kent baby deaths: Four more families come forward

By Michael Buchanan & James Melley
BBC News

  • Published
Katy King and FletcherImage source, Katy King
Image caption,
Katy King said staff failed to believe she was in labour as she was only 28 weeks pregnant

A BBC News investigation has uncovered more preventable baby deaths at an NHS trust which has already been criticised for its maternity services.

Four families said their babies would have survived had East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust provided better care.

The trust has apologised for the care provided in two of the cases and said they were investigating a third.

It has denied any wrongdoing in the fourth case.

The government is due to receive the Healthcare Safety Branch's report into the 25 cases later, as well as a Care Quality Commission report from an inspection carried out in January.

Four further families have now spoken out, saying their babies would not have died if medics had provided better care.

In two of the cases, the mothers said the actions of the trust left them feeling they were to blame for their babies' deaths.

Reid Andrew Shaw - November 2019

Image source, Kirsty Stead
Image caption,
"It's all like a muddled up dream and not a nice one," Kirsty Stead said

Having previously reported two incidents of reduced movement, Kirsty Stead called midwives at 01:10 on the day before her due date to tell them she was in severe pain and her son was moving excessively.

She says she was told to take paracetamol and go to sleep. Kirsty called the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM) in Margate at 16:59 to say she had not felt her son move for hours.

She was asked to come in, but by 19:00 the hospital said her son had died.

In a meeting last month, the hospital said they did not have a record of the night-time call and it was possible the person who answered had been in the midst of looking after another patient and had not checked Kirsty's medical notes.

Kirsty thinks Reid would have survived if she had been asked to go into hospital that night.

"Things just went downhill and spiralled out of control so quickly that it's hard to actually think that it's real because it's all like a muddled up dream and not a nice one," she said.

East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust said: "We have started a thorough investigation into the care that Kirsty and Reid were given."

Freddie White - April 2016

Image source, Google
Image caption,
Doctors at the QEQM Hospital were not able to revive Freddie

Nicola Grimmett fell pregnant for a second time in 2015 after IVF treatment.

She found she was carrying twins and her pregnancy was considered "high risk" because her first baby was born by emergency Caesarean section.

At 35 weeks a doctor at the QEQM Hospital discovered the babies had twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a serious condition where one of the foetuses is getting more of the blood supply from the placenta than the other.

Nicola did not see a consultant for two days after this was discovered, and it was a further day before she had a Caesarean section.

The hospital were not able to revive Freddie, and the family feel he would have survived if he had been delivered earlier.

East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust said: "We accept that Freddie's death might have been avoided had we acted differently and we wholeheartedly apologise for this."

Harriet Gittos - August 2014

Image source, Helen Gittos
Image caption,
Helen Gittos said she was left for more than an hour before seeing a senior doctor

Following a traumatic experience with the birth of her son two years earlier, Helen Gittos and her partner Andy Hudson closely examined the labour facilities in Margate prior to giving birth.

She was not convinced they were safe, so opted for a home birth near the QEQM Hospital in case of any complications after her request to give birth at its midwife-led unit was turned down due to her first birth being a Caesarean.

Her labour progressed slowly so she was transferred to the hospital, where Helen said she was left for more than an hour before seeing a senior doctor despite being classed as a high-risk patient.

Staff then noticed that her daughter's heart rate was slowing and decided to perform an emergency Caesarean. Harriet was born in a poor condition and died eight days later.

Helen said she was told her baby's death was a consequence of her decision to refuse to have appropriate medical treatment.

"We at no stage declined any medical intervention whatsoever," she claimed.

East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust said: "We accept… that we could have done more to respond to [Helen Gittos's] wishes and help her labour in a calm, low-risk environment as much as possible."

Fletcher Aiken - August 2017

Image source, Katy King
Image caption,
"It just has such a horrific effect on everyone," Katy King said

Katy King said staff failed to believe she was in labour as she was only 28 weeks pregnant.

Her son Fletcher was born by emergency Caesarean section and, although weak, was breathing on his own by the time he was two days old.

Staff informed Katy and her partner Jason that while their son needed to stay in William Harvey Hospital in Ashford until he put on more weight, he should have been fit to go home in about a month.

However, Fletcher became ill at nine days old and died aged 13 days. He had suffered numerous seizures each day and medics believed he had some unspecified genetic condition.

The family said staff failed to spot he had developed a fungal infection and believe if he had been born at a hospital 40 miles away he would have been given the correct antibiotics from birth.

"We'll never know if he'd been given the anti-fungal medication, would he ever have got it [the infection]. It just has such a horrific effect on everyone," she said.

East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust said: "There was no evidence of any omissions in care. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is currently investigating the family's complaint."

The new cases come as a coroner has made 19 recommendations for improvements following the "wholly avoidable" death of a baby at the QEQM Hospital in 2017.

Christopher Sutton-Mattocks concluded that neglect by the trust had contributed to Harry Richford's death.

Harry's parents Tom and Sarah, who are campaigning for a public inquiry into maternity failures at the trust, said they feared the changes would not be enacted.

Mr Richford said: "In our case, they knew that there were systemic problems going way back. They had two years to address these problems before Harry died. And they didn't.

In a statement, East Kent Hospitals Trust it had set up a board sub-committee "to ensure we are complying with national safety standards and ensure we are implementing the coroner's recommendations fully and swiftly".

"We are deeply saddened by the stories of families who have suffered the death of a much-loved baby, and we are extremely sorry for their loss," it added.

Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
Harry Richford with parents Sarah and Tom

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