Nottingham University Hospitals Foundation Trust is set to pay £2.8 million to the parents of baby Harriet Hawkins, following a clinical negligence claim into the multiple failings in care which caused her death.
The pay out, to Sarah and Jack Hawkins, is thought by their lawyer to be the biggest pay out to date for negligence related to a stillbirth.
Harriet was born dead at Nottingham City Hospital on 17 April 2016, as a result of series of failings by the hospital. An independent investigation was pursued by Mr and Ms Hawkins after the trust claimed Harriet’s death was the result of an infection and “no obvious fault” on the trust’s part.
However, the independent investigation concluded in 2018 that Harriet’s death was “almost certainly preventable” and identified at least 13 mistakes in her care.
The news comes following an investigation by Channel 4 news and The Independent which exposed that at least 46 babies have suffered brain damage and 19 were stillborn in Nottingham since 2010. Compensation costs totalling £91m related to these failings are to be paid out by the trust.
A review was launched by then patient safety minister Nadine Dorries into maternity failings at the hospital, which will examine how serious mistakes in care at the trust were hidden by staff.
On 10 November, Parklane Plowden Chambers won a trial against NUH over failings in the birth of another child who was left with serious brain injuries, which it said may lead to a claim worth up to £20 million.
Both Mr and Ms Hawkins used to work at Nottingham Hospital prior to the death of Harriet and neither were able to return to their jobs due to the trauma of her stillbirth and the trust’s subsequent actions.
Speaking with The Independent, Mr Hawkins said the payment doesn’t make anything better.
He said: “All it does is make up for money that we have lost because of Harriet’s avoidable stillbirth, and then the hospital’s appalling response, where they have essentially taken no responsibility.
“Harriet’s death was avoidable. But once Harriet was dead, the way that the senior team at the hospital behaved has resulted in this payment. They have caused untold psychiatric and psychological damage and caused financial harm.
“What they could have done and should have done is say, ‘This is a tragedy, we are so sorry, will you help us, we will listen to everything that you say and believe you, we will learn everything, and we will make sure that Harriet’s name is held, is valued and treasured by our staff.’ Instead, what they’ve done is to manage their reputation.”
Mr Hawkins questioned the independence of the review, which is being managed by NHS England and local commissioners Nottingham Clinical Commissioning Group, and called for a public inquiry to take place.
He said he considered local and national commissioners “co-defendants” in the maternity failings as the bodies were made aware in at least 2017 of the failings in Harriet’s care and failings in care of other mothers and babies.
Sarah Hawkins, Harriet’s mother, said in a statement: “I couldn’t grieve when NUH chose to say Harriet’s death was caused by an infection, rather than their own failures. We had to keep Harriet’s body in the mortuary for two years so we could keep her as "evidence". Time after time families are contacting us, and every single time I get contacted my heart sinks. History is repeating itself over and over again.”
She said the trust was still trailing to make any chances to prevent “needless harm” and added “Harriet is not just a statistic, she is our daughter. No money will ever replace Harriet. Nor would we have gone down this route had we been listened to, believed and heard.”
Mr and Ms Hawkins, who were represented by Janet Baker and law firm Switalskis Solicitors, said the total costs to the NHS following this case are likely to be more than £3.5m.
Ms Baker said: “I believe that this is a cost which was unnecessary and could have been avoided if NUH had acknowledged responsibility for Harriet’s death straight away and had been open with Sarah and Jack.
“They had suffered a psychiatric injury because of the shocking and traumatic way in which Harriet died but this was made significantly worse by the protracted failure of NUH to acknowledge responsibility for Harriet’s death and the psychiatric injuries caused to Sarah and Jack.
“Sarah and Jack now suffer from ongoing depression and PTSD and have been unable to work and their lives have been changed in a way in which no amount of money can ever compensate.”
Nottingham University Hospitals Foundation Trust has been approached for comment.