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Parents of stillborn awarded £2.8m for failings at Health Trust

The parents of a baby born, stillborn, have received a record £2.8 million settlement from a hospital trust after its failings caused their child’s death.

In 2016, Harriet Hawkins was stillborn at Nottingham City Hospital after a six-day labour. An official external report concluded her death was “almost certainly preventable” and found 13 failures in Harriet and her mother’s care. Harriet’s parents, Sarah and Jack Hawkins, both worked at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) but neither has been able to return owing to the “psychological and psychiatric impact” of the stillbirth. The couple were first told that Harriet had died of an infection.

It took nine hours for her to be delivered after dying. Their legal case against NUH has now been settled for £2.8 million, which solicitors for the couple say is the biggest pay-out for such a case.

A root-cause analysis investigation report found the trust failed to follow risk management policies, failed to consider the patients’ clinical history, and delayed administering appropriate treatment. It added that there were “multiple missed opportunities for intervention and appropriate monitoring earlier in the labour”, and that had one of these been taken it would have been likely that Harriet’s death, “would not have occurred.”

After the publication of the report in 2018, Mr Hawkins said he and his wife were, “both unable to work because of the psychological and psychiatric impact Harriet’s death has had on us.”

Speaking to the BBC earlier this year, Mrs Hawkins said: “I couldn’t grieve when they [the trust] chose to say Harriet’s death was caused by an infection, rather than their own failures. We had to keep Harriet’s body in the mortuary for two years so we could keep her as ‘evidence’.” Janet Baker, their solicitor, told the BBC that – with legal fees for both sides – the total cost to the NHS was likely to be more than £3.5 million, and that this was a cost that “could have been avoided if NUH had acknowledged responsibility for Harriet’s death straight away and had been open with Sarah and Jack.”

Ms Baker added that the couple suffered “psychiatric injury” because of the “shocking and traumatic way” in which their child died, and said: “This was made significantly worse by the protracted failure of NUH to acknowledge responsibility for Harriet’s death and the psychiatric injuries caused to Sarah and Jack.”

Nottingham University Hospitals Trust stated: “We would like to reiterate our sincere apologies to Mr and Mrs Hawkins for failures in the care around the delivery of baby Harriet. Our maternity improvement programme has introduced a number of improvements.”