Medical Negligence Solicitors Discuss Death Of Ellanor Bennett
11th October 2013
A recent inquest into the death of Ellanor Bennett, who died the day after she was born after medical negligence in the NHS, has illustrated issues personal injury solicitors frequently see in the UK’s birth injury claims.
Ellanor died in February 2004 and an inquest, held by South Cumbria Coroner Ian Smith, reached a narrative verdict and found that she had died as a result of birthing complications. The inquest heard that staff had not properly monitored the baby’s heart rate during delivery, with the midwife failing to check the infant’s heart for a total of 43 minutes. When the baby was born, she had to be artificially resuscitated, and continually suffered from seizures. Ellanor was transferred to Liverpool Women’s Hospital but it was not possible to save her.
However, while an internal review criticised the midwife’s actions, as heart rates are supposed to be checked every five minutes, Ellanor’s parents were not told about this investigation. A consultant was said to have told the family that the hospital could not learn any lessons from the child’s death, describing it as “just one of those things”. As a result, no post-mortem was performed and the coroner was not initially told about the death.
The coroner’s inquest, at Barrow Town Hall, only occurred after a police investigation into baby and mother deaths in the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital was held.
Cover-Ups And Clinical Negligence Claims
Ellanor’s death should have been referred to the coroner by the NHS Trust – University Hospitals of Morcambe Bay Trust. Because it was not, and because the Trust failed to inform the coroner and the family, the investigation occurred ten years after Ellanor’s death and any clinical negligence compensation claims the family could have made were hampered.
Maternity claims are disproportionately common in NHS hospitals, and are also typically the most expensive claim. In fact, the NHS Litigation Authority paid out £3.1 billion for birthing and maternity negligence claims in the last decade, with a total of 5,087 claims made over this timeframe. Around 0.1% of all births in England lead to a clinical negligence claim.
While moves have been made to improve standards within the NHS, the culture of secrecy has been hard to challenge. Personal injury solicitors can provoke openness within healthcare facilities by making clinical negligence claims and investigating the circumstances of claimant’s personal injuries, but there is little to suggest that the problems faced by Ellanor’s family could not still occur today.
The NHS Trust admitted that it failed to share relevant information with Ellanor’s family and said it has improved its systems to ensure that relevant parties are provided with information as soon as possible and apologised to the Bennett family. It admitted that some of the care provided to Ellanor’s mother during labour was inappropriate and that Ellanor should have been delivered earlier.