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Inquest awaited into the death of Baby Clay Wankiewicz

Parents Beth and Daniel Wankiewicz are awaiting details of an inquest after the tragic neonatal loss of their baby son Clay in July 2020 at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. It has now come to light that there had been a review of the Trust where Clay was born by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 2016, which has never been published by the Trust.

Following a BBC Panorama Freedom of Information request, the family are now aware that the report highlights deficiencies in the standard of service provided by maternity services across the Trust. However, the guidance was to make this document available to the public and the Trust have chosen not to. The Family believe that the Trust had the tools to enact change and had this happened in 2016 or 2017, the outcome for Clay could have been different.

Clay was Beth and Daniel’s first baby and the pregnancy had been normal throughout. The couple had opted for a home birth using a private midwife. Beth began with contractions and was attended by her midwife. Beth entered the birthing pool but the midwife soon became concerned with Beth’s lack of progress and the pain that Beth was in. Her advice was for Beth to transfer immediately to hospital. The couple’s closest hospital – Bassetlaw Hospital in Worksop – was closed due to Covid-19, so they attended Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Beth’s progress was still unusually slow given the stage of her labour. Beth was fully dilated but was exhausted from pushing. The midwives advised her to keep going as normal and that the baby would come out naturally. With no further progress, doctors then advised that forceps should be used. However, two attempts to deliver the baby with forceps were unsuccessful and the father, Daniel commented that he had never seen such excessive force.

The decision was then made to carry out an emergency Caesarean section, but it took more than 41 minutes from the moment the decision was made for Clay to be born, which the family believe was excessive. Clay was born in a very delicate state with a heart rate of just 60 beats per minute – significantly lower than that expected of a healthy newborn. Tragically, attempts to resuscitate Clay were unsuccessful. The family recall that a midwife visited Beth and Daniel and explained that the other midwife was being pressured by hospital staff to say that there was no heartbeat at the time of Clay’s birth.

In the event of a stillbirth or neonatal death, parents are often provided with a ‘cold cot’ (sometimes known as a ‘cuddle cot’). This preserves the baby’s body and delays the effects of death, which can help with investigations into the causes of death. On this occasion, Beth and Daniel were not immediately provided with a cold cot – which was important given the warm summer weather – even though there were plenty available at the hospital. Clay was eventually given a cold cot, but the couple were encouraged to only spend a brief time with Clay, as this would enable the investigation to begin more promptly. They then had to return to the labour ward where they overheard new babies being born, after what had already been a deeply upsetting day for them.

Like many bereaved parents, Beth and Daniel now want answers to the questions they have about the causes of Clay’s death. On such a difficult, distressing day it was hard for them to know what to do for the best, so they put their trust in the medical professionals they dealt with. Although they know that nothing will bring Clay back, they are determined to get those answers and help other parents to avoid the unnecessary heartbreak they have experienced. As well as the inquest, Beth has shared her experiences openly on a blog – entitled Carrying Clay – in the hope of helping other parents to cope with life after the loss of a baby.

Along with Beth and Daniel, I recently spoke to BBC Look North about the failings at Doncaster Royal Infirmary and how they contributed to Clay’s death. The interview can be seen below. The Doncaster Free Press also published an article about the forthcoming inquest.

If you need help or advice on any aspects of birth injuries or infant loss, we can provide you with the confidential, compassionate advice that you need. We have many years’ experience of dealing with such claims and we’re happy to discuss your circumstances with you. Call us on 0800 138 0458 or contact us through the website.

Natalie Cosgrove

Natalie is an Associate Solicitor within our Clinical Negligence team in Sheffield. She qualified as a Barrister in 2008, then cross-qualified as a Solicitor in 2011. She joined Switalskis in November 2016. Natalie's profile