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Multimillion pound fines for hospitals after botched maternity care

PUBLISHED: 16:28 21 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:13 07 September 2010

Tan Parsons MATERNITY services have come under fire as two hospitals have agreed to pay damages for botched care which left two girls disabled. The Royal Free in Hampstead has agreed to pay almost £5million to Jodie Stock, now 19, who was left severely di

Tan Parsons

MATERNITY services have come under fire as two hospitals have agreed to pay damages for botched care which left two girls disabled.

The Royal Free in Hampstead has agreed to pay almost £5million to Jodie Stock, now 19, who was left severely disabled after she was starved of oxygen at birth.

The Whittington in Highgate Hill has also stumped up £115,000 to Taliyah Appleton-Williams, now eight, who briefly stopped breathing after she was born 17 weeks' premature.

Ms Stock faces a lifetime of disability including learning difficulties, epilepsy and physical problems which will cause her considerable challenges, London's High Court heard on May 13.

Through her mother Janet Taylor, the teenager, from Hemel Hempstead, sued the Royal Free's managers - the North Central Strategic Health Authority - which agreed to the compensation package on the basis of 80 per cent liability.

The case follows a string of serious incidents at the Pond Street hospital including Riley Croft who died hours after being born in March 2005.

The cause of Ms Stock's injuries was a "placental abruption" in the hours before her birth, her lawyers argued. She was delivered at 7.20pm but lawyers claimed that if she had been born by 6pm she would have escaped all injury.

There was also a dispute over whether a pre-birth "trace" on the baby's vital signs indicated that she was in difficulties in the womb. If that was the case, lawyers argued that she should have been born earlier by emergency caesarean.

The health authority's counsel Paul Rees QC said: "It has to be accepted that the decision making in the critical period was not of the standard Jodie and her mother could have expected."

Approving the deal, Mrs Justice Swift said she had been struck by the family's extraordinary devotion and care for their daughter.

She added: "Needless to say, I wish Jodie well for the future and I also hope that this settlement will assist the family to resume, to some extent at least, their own lives and their own pursuits."

On the previous day, the court heard how Taliyah, of Hargrave Road, Archway, weighed little more than a pound when she was delivered 17 weeks' premature at the Whittington in April 2001.

Her treatment in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit was substandard and has had a serious impact on her life, lawyers said.

Taliyah has nevertheless grown into a bubbly child who smiled happily during the hearing.

While in the ICU, she briefly stopped breathing, which her lawyers claimed was caused by a severed umbilical catheter.

They also blamed chemical burns on her left thigh and abdomen on her having being cleaned up with alcohol swabs.

The hospital also faced claims that leakage from a line putting sodium bicarbonate into her bloodstream caused damage to her left forearm and hand which may yet require surgery to put right.

Without admitting liability, the Whittington agreed to settle her case for £115,000.

Judge Mrs Justice Swift approved the settlement as fair.

She said: "She seems a very determined little girl with a great deal of ability and I hope that she will make the best use of that ability in the future."

In July 2008, the Healthcare Commission placed the Whittington in the least well performing group of hospitals in its review of the country's maternity services.


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