Full-term stillbirths investigated by NHS trust

A woman fears her concerns about her baby’s lack of movement in the late stages of pregnancy were ignored by staff at Basildon Hospital before she suffered a stillbirth, it has been revealed.

The latest board papers for the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust –which covers Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals – has revealed an investigation is under way after four babies died at the hospitals in August.

A baby died during a caesarean operation at Southend Hospital while there was a full-term stillbirth at Basildon Hospital.

An investigation by the trust into the Basildon death involved a 25-year-old woman in her second pregnancy.

It had been “uneventful” until week 33 when she began to have blurred vision and headaches. Tests appeared normal but during an antenatal appointment at 37 weeks the mother reported reduced foetal movement. She was discharged home.

She returned the following day reporting no foetal movement and an ultrasound confirmed her baby had died.

A report to the board said: “The mother and father did not feel listened to or that her ongoing management took into account the worsening symptoms that she was reporting. This meant that the opportunity for a holistic, obstetric assessment did not occur at the earliest opportunity.”

The report added: “Due to competing clinical demands on staff, the mother’s known multiple risk factors and new risk factor of reduced foetal movements were not fully appreciated. This meant these risk factors were not fully explored and considered in the mother’s ongoing management.

“There was no escalation to, or discussion with, a senior obstetrician when the perception of reduced foetal movements continued in a high risk mother.”

Two full-term stillbirths occurred at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, where “some care concerns” were highlighted over one of the deaths. The other incident was an unexpected, spontaneous onset of low-risk labour where “some learning was identified.”

Alex Field, consultant obstetrics gyneacologist and medical director for women’s and children’s division at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Any baby loss or stillbirth is a tragic event, and we investigate these fully and take learnings from each incident to reduce risk.

“These incidents are rare, we support around 1,000 births a month across our hospitals and most are born safely with no complications. The trust is required to have systems and processes in place that support effective reporting and learning if things go wrong in the delivery of healthcare.”

In the report, the trust concluded: “In view of these tragic losses, the three governance leads are currently compiling a spreadsheet of information in order to compare data and identify any themes and trends across the trust.”

Last year, the Care Quality Commission rated the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, and its three hospitals, as “requires improvement”. The report said there were not enough staff at Basildon to keep babies safe.


Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter