York Hospital: failings to be addressed to avoid future baby losses
A York woman is calling for more robust antenatal monitoring processes at York Hospital following the loss of her unborn baby.
In June 2020, 23-year-old Amy Booth was delighted to learn she was expecting her first child. Following a GP examination, Amy’s pregnancy was classed as low risk. However, early ultrasound scans showed that the baby was smaller than expected and additional, more in depth scans were arranged.
Measurements were recorded during the scans, which included a parameter called the pulsatility index, which monitors blood flow to the fetus.
“This was my first pregnancy. I had no idea what to expect and I wholeheartedly trusted my specialist, Amy says. “I booked and attended all appointments as instructed, but I was made to feel like a nuisance. The reception team commented on my frequent visits and told me they were overkill.
“At around 29 weeks, I was told my baby was redirecting its energy and was uncomfortable. I was advised that the baby may not make it to full-term, and that I should be prepared for an early delivery.”
On 4th December 2020, at 32 weeks pregnant, Amy attended York Hospital for a scheduled scan where her pulsatility index was recorded.
“I was advised that my baby was safe, but I should prepare for delivery at 34 weeks. I was apprehensive but I trusted my specialist’s advice. I thought the hospital knew best.”
Amy returned to the hospital on 10th of December, now 33 weeks pregnant. She had not felt any movement from her baby since the evening before. An ultrasound was performed, and it was confirmed that her baby had died. After an induced labour, Amy gave birth.
“I was distraught,” she says. “During delivery, I was made to feel like a nuisance. I don’t feel my feelings were respected at all. After delivery, I was moved to the bereavement suite with my family. Unfortunately, this was very close to the delivery suite, so I could hear newborns crying.
“I was absolutely devastated. Knowing that previous scans had highlighted potential issues, I was frustrated that my specialist didn’t push for an early delivery. I was then asked if I had any questions, and my specialist said there was nothing they could have done to save my baby.”
The Trust raised concerns over York Hospital's approach
Following her ordeal, Amy’s baby’s death was considered independently by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. The Trust raised concerns over York Hospital’s approach to record-keeping and monitoring but stated it was impossible to tell whether her baby would have survived. Amy instructed Tamlin Bolton, a senior associate solicitor at Switalskis, to investigate further.
Tamlin explains, “If pulsatility is weak, it’s a sign that not enough blood flow is getting to the baby. York Hospital recorded the pulsatility figure on the 4th of December but failed to recognise that the figure indicated low blood flow to Amy’s baby.
“Had the hospital staff used the pulsatility index data that was available to them and carried out a repeat scan, it is likely the issue would have been highlighted. This would have prompted Amy’s admission to the hospital and the administration of steroids prior to an early delivery by on the 8th or 9th of December, which would likely have saved her baby.”
Amy was awarded damages in recognition of the loss of bringing a pregnancy to completion and a significant psychological injury
The York Teaching Hospitals response stated that the technical equipment needed to report the pulsatility index was not available to the Trust in 2020 and that this was in line with most Trusts at the time.
“I know from previous cases that Trusts have been recording and interpreting the pulsatility index since 2001,” Tamlin says. “No special equipment is needed to reference reported measurements against the normal range, and Amy should not have been under the hospital’s care if these measurements could not be interpreted correctly.”
The case settled out of court last month and Amy was awarded damages in recognition of the loss of bringing a pregnancy to completion and a significant injury.
Amy adds, “Pregnancy should be one of the happiest experiences of a woman’s life, but that wasn’t the case for me. Any future pregnancy I have will be high-risk, and despite always wanting to be mother, I will find it very hard to trust a hospital.
“I urge every woman to ask questions and speak up if something feels off. My specialist took measurements that they allegedly could do nothing with. Had they interpreted the findings as they should, my baby could still be alive.
“I want to see more done to make sure that all data collected during a pregnancy is interpreted and followed up. I don’t want other women to experience the heartache I have.”
Baby loss support available
Baby Loss Awareness Weeks runs from 9-15 October. More information can be found here or by visiting Sands, the UK’s leading pregnancy and baby loss charity .
At Switalskis, we represent many families who have been affected by inadequate maternity services across the UK. The consequences of inadequate maternity services are devastating and life altering. We support the need for change to ensure that our clients receive a higher standard of care so that we avoid the outcomes we are currently seeing.