Posted on 16 Jul 2013

Oliver Thorne settles case against Derriford Hospital for £30,000 following the death of Ivybridge baby

A Devon hospital has admitted negligence after an Ivybridge mother lost her baby because of 'a number of failures'.

In 2009 when pregnant Rebecca Paine, 30, of Ivybridge near Plymouth, underwent a routine 20-week scan at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.  Tragically it showed that her fetus suffered from a potentially lethal form of dysplasia, an abnormal form of cell development, which gave the baby only a limited prospect of survival.

Regretfully therefore, Rebecca agreed that her baby wouldn't be resuscitated if born with breathing difficulties.

The birth was induced on 27 November 2009 at 41 weeks.  But Jaycee-Anne was born apparently healthy though with shortened limbs.  Records suggest that the 'do not resuscitate' note was signed on 1 December, though the document appears to have been lost.

But the day afterwards, further tests suggested that Jaycee-Anne's condition was not as serious as first thought and on these findings she was expected to have a much better life expectancy. She was transferred to the neo-natal intensive care unit and the 'do not resuscitate' note was cancelled.

The baby's condition improved to the point where Rebecca was to be allowed to take her baby home and her home was fitted with an oxygen machine. So on 10 December Jaycee-Anne was discharged, but when she was placed in her car she began to cry, gasp for air and turn blue. 

Rebecca rushed her back to the unit where medical staff gave her oxygen.  But then she was allowed to go home without senior medical or nursing staff being involved.  A doctor tried to call Rebecca 15 minutes later when it was realized Jaycee should have been seen by more senior staff.  But though the call was unsuccessful, nothing further was done and senior staff were not informed.

A community nurse visited the family the next day and taught Rebecca rudimentary life support techniques in case Jaycee suffered a relapse.

But later Rebecca took Jaycee-Anne to visit relatives and, on arrival, the baby was unresponsive.  Rebecca tried to resuscitate her and called the air ambulance.  Jaycee-Anne was flown to Derriford Hospital where she died.

The hospital subsequently carried out a root cause analysis investigation, which showed a 'failure to escalate' Jaycee-Anne's condition to more senior medical staff when she turned blue; failure to ask for senior medical review before she was discharged; and failure to provide feedback to senior medical staff after the home visit.

It also noted that Jaycee-Anne's clinical management was undertaken without a full ante-natal investigation and diagnosis. Rebecca's has taken her case against the hospital to law. It is being managed by Oliver Thorne, a medical negligence specialist with Exeter-based Michelmores.

'There seem to have been a number of failures,' Oliver Thorne explains.  'In addition to those listed by the hospital's own report, Jaycee-Anne was seen by temporary staff on the day of her discharge.

'As I understand it, the actual staff had their Christmas party that evening.  With a complex condition such as that suffered by Jaycee-Anne, to be seen by a temporary nurse is sub-standard care in my eyes.

'Rebecca wasn't taught basic life support techniques before Jaycee was discharged.  Then when she had left the building a junior doctor raced after her to bring her back. But when he couldn't find her he did nothing more.

'Had Jaycee-Anne's case been escalated to a senior doctor at this time the outcome for her could have been very different.  Some babies with skeletal dysplasias can struggle to breathe when they are placed in certain positions, like seated in a car seat. It's these babies that are high risk and require a specially designed car seat. Rebecca was not informed of this risk when she was discharged. 

'Understandably Rebecca is still trying to get over the death of her baby.  Having had Jaycee-Anne's diagnosis so positively improved it's easy to appreciate her hopes for the future.

'But slipshod medical attention has cost her baby her life.  We now have to find out exactly how it happened and try to make sure it doesn't happen again.'

The hospital has admitted failures, and a favourable settlement has been agreed.