- Trust destroyed medical records after legal claim was lodged against midwifery unit
- Midwife told registrar to stay outside delivery room while baby’s life was in danger
- Calderdale and Huddersfield FT’s documents had “puzzling differences” and midwife’s account had “unexplained discrepancies”, says judge
A trust destroyed medical records after a legal claim was lodged by the family of a baby born with brain damage at its midwifery led unit, a court has been told.
Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust destroyed the original medical records, four months after they were digitised in September 2015.
Mr Justice Goss said the destruction caused “considerable problems”, with photocopies of the paper records containing “puzzling differences” when compared to the digitised version.
He said the integrity of the records could not be guaranteed and “clearly overwritten” entries could not be scrutinised forensically.
However, the High Court judge accepted it was not “a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence”.
He said: “I am satisfied the records were destroyed by reason of negligent failings by [the trust] either by individual failures and/or in their system and systems.”
The family of the baby girl, known as RE, began legal action after she suffered acute profound hypoxic ischaemic insult during her birth in April 2011.
The trust’s lawyers said it is considering an appeal after the judge ruled there had been negligence in the baby’s delivery because of a delay in summoning help.
The court hearing last month was told midwife Kate Garvey told a registrar to stay outside the delivery room at Calderdale Birth Centre in Halifax when RE, who weighed 10lb 6oz, was stuck in the birth canal, although he arrived within two minutes of being called.
In his ruling, published this month, the judge said: “He asked [the healthcare assistant] to tell midwife Garvey it was the obstetric registrar but it was reiterated by midwife Garvey that he should remain outside.
“The exclusion… for about a minute was, in the prevailing emergency circumstances, an unreasonable and inappropriate action.”
Mr Justice Goss said the midwife should have summoned help “immediately”, with neonatologists and paediatric neurologists saying RE would have “avoided all damage” if help had been summoned earlier.
Delivery was delayed by 11 minutes by suspected shoulder dystocia, described in the trust’s guidelines as “one of the most dreaded obstetric emergencies” and a known risk in large babies.
In her witness statement, the baby’s mother said: “As I looked down on her, I could see her body was completely white and lifeless, her head was purple and swollen, she did not make a sound.
“I remember thinking ‘My baby is dead; my baby is dead.’”
The court heard the midwife’s account contained “many unexplained discrepancies, contradictions and revisions” and her reliability was undermined. There was also “contradictory evidence” in the medical records about timings of the foetal heartbeat.
In his conclusion on liability, the judge said: “I find that there was negligence in the delivery of RE by delaying the summoning of help that was causative of the hypoxic injury.”
He said the mother and grandmother, who was present at the birth, were entitled to damages for nervous shock.
Mr Justice Goss said: “It was not an event of the kind to be expected as ‘part and parcel’ of the demands and experience of childbirth.”
The trust’s legal representatives said: “The trust recognise and regret that a number of lives have been adversely affected by the events of this case.
“Throughout the case, the evidence from a number of eminent experts indicated that this was not a case where the hospital staff had been at fault. As a result the trust will carefully consider the judgment and may, on legal advice, seek permission to appeal.”
12 April 2017