Penningtons Manches LLP’s clinical negligence team has just settled a claim against Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for failure to diagnose and treat gestational diabetes leading to the stillbirth of the claimant’s daughter. The claimant subsequently suffered a psychiatric injury as a result of these events.
She was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her first pregnancy and her pregnancy and delivery were therefore managed accordingly with no complications. She fell pregnant with her second pregnancy in November 2010 and attended Homerton University Hospital for her antenatal care. The hospital was aware of her history and she was advised that she was at an increased risk of gestational diabetes and would require a random blood sugar level at every antenatal visit. However, although some tests were carried out during her antenatal care, her blood sugar was not monitored.
The claimant had a fetal wellbeing scan at 38+5 weeks gestation which showed a large baby weight and too much amniotic fluid in the uterus (polyhydramnios). One of the causes of this can be diabetes when a mother’s blood sugar levels are not properly controlled.
As a result of this finding, she was scheduled to have a glucose tolerance test and consultant review at 41 weeks. However, she was unaware of the plan or its significance and these arrangements were not put in place for her. When she attended at 41+4 weeks for a planned induction, no fetal movements were noted and intrauterine death was confirmed. The mother had no warning or indication that there was a problem or risk to her baby and instead of proceeding with delivery of her second child had to deliver her stillborn baby.
Although no post mortem was carried out, the cause of death was noted to be as a result of gestational diabetes.
The claimant was extremely upset, not just at the totally unexpected loss of her baby, but to discover that it was due to gestational diabetes when she had understood that she was being appropriately monitored for this eventuality and had received no indication that there was a problem. Through the formal complaints procedure, she learned of the planned tests and assessments that had been indicated but not carried out and that she should have been referred to an obstetrician at 38 weeks, and delivery should have been offered by 40 weeks.
She subsequently instructed Penningtons Manches to investigate a clinical negligence claim on her behalf as she wanted answers about the failings in her care.
Liability was admitted at an early stage and the trust acknowledged the failings in the claimant’s care and accepted that, had the failings not occurred, her daughter would have survived.
Following the admission by the defendant, Penningtons Manches took steps to quantify the claimant’s claim. She made the case that, as well as a claim for the loss of her child, she was entitled to make a separate claim for nervous shock/psychiatric injury arising out of the circumstances regarding the delivery of her daughter. These cases are extremely difficult to pursue due to the very strict guidelines set down by the court.
Following receipt of expert evidence, Penningtons Manches entered into negotiations with the defendant and was able to achieve a monetary settlement that took into consideration her bereavement and psychiatric injury as a result of the admitted failings in her care.
Amy Milner, who handled the case, said: “This was an extremely sad case of numerous failings by Homerton University Hospital. There were several stages when further investigation was mandated but not carried out and the subsequent tragic outcome could and should have been avoided. It is a credit to the trust that liability was admitted quite swiftly and it was very open about what had gone wrong.
“These events have been extremely difficult and distressing for our client who has understandably found it hard to accept that her daughter’s death could have been avoided but for these failings. While no amount of money can make up for what happened, the sensible approach by the defendants and the recovery of damages to enable her to pay for treatment for her ongoing psychological issues are small achievements in this tragic case.”