Harriet Hawkins: Another baby that should have been born alive


October 5, 2017 | By Janet Baker |

October 5, 2017 | By Janet Baker |

Sarah and Jack Hawkins
Harriet’s parents, Sarah and Jack Hawkins

A couple represented by Switalskis Clinical Negligence department are blowing the whistle on endemic failures and cover-ups by Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust following the death of their baby daughter due to a mismanaged labour.

Harriet – who was Jack and Sarah Hawkins’ first baby – was born dead at Nottingham City Hospital on 17th April 2016. Twenty-six serious errors have already been identified by an external review body, with the results of a second Serious Untoward Incident (SUI) Review expected shortly.

Baby Harriet was not the first to die. There have been several of such deaths before hers, and several since. Following pressure by Harriet’s parents on the NUH, it was admitted to them that between April 2014 and February 2017, 35 babies died who were over 37 weeks gestation. They also discovered that since March 2015 – and contrary to standard practice – the Trust had not conducted SUI investigations into any of these deaths.

That’s 35 babies whose deaths were not properly investigated in order for poor practices in the management of labour to be identified and acted on. It was only after continued pressure from Jack and Sarah that the NUH decided to review one year’s worth of stillbirths, and as a result, upgraded 10 of them to SUIs.

In a report looking at Harriet’s death, 8 out of the 10 midwives who came into contact with Sarah during her labour have been heavily criticised and must now undergo a detailed review of their skills and training.

Director and Head of the Sheffield Clinical Negligence team, Janet Baker, who is representing the couple, said, “I have practiced in the area of clinical negligence for over 20 years, and never have a seen such a horrendous string of errors. What’s also shocking, is the extent to which the Trust have steered away from addressing the criticisms put to them, instead choosing to attribute Harriet’s death to a non-existent infection.”

Jack and Sarah believe Harriet’s death was completely avoidable. They are calling for a change in the law to broaden the jurisdiction of a Coroner to allow inquests to be held into the deaths of babies after 37 weeks gestation. Currently they are unable to investigate a stillbirth (a baby born dead after 24 weeks of pregnancy). Had an Inquest been held into other stillborn babies at NUH, they would have identified problems within the hospital and prompted changes that would have prevented Harriet’s death.

This change to Coronial Law would bring England and Wales in line with Northern Ireland where, following a landmark legal ruling in 2013, it was held the “Coroner can carry out an inquest into the death of a stillborn child that had been capable of being born alive.”

Jack and Sarah are also calling for Trusts to share Stillbirth statistics with their local Coroner’s Office.

Read more: Hospital apologises to parents of stillborn baby for ‘unimaginable distress’ caused by her death – Nottingham Post, 4 October 2017

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Janet Baker

Janet is an experienced specialist and nationally-recognised expert in Clinical Negligence claims. She has developed a particular specialism for birth-related matters such as stillbirth and Cerebral Palsy. She is ranked in Band 1 for Clinical Negligence in Sheffield by Chambers and Partners and she has made regular appearances in national media. Janet's profile