Research Into Avoidable Birth Related Brain Injury

15 Feb 2018 | Stephanie Prior
water ripple

Around 1.5 million babies worldwide each year acquire some sort of brain damage during birth. It is also estimated that each year, five babies in every thousand born in England alone suffer brain injury during or soon after being born. Whether it is due to lack of oxygen or some other reason such as infection, those babies affected will go on to develop conditions such as cerebral palsy, learning difficulties and epilepsy. Frequently, these birth injuries are entirely avoidable and are caused solely by clinical negligence from those health care professionals who are meant to keep both mother and baby safe.

Clinical Negligence

Unfortunately you don’t have to look too far to find news articles about children who have been permanently affected by clinically negligent birth practices. The Shropshire Star just reported on the sad case of a young baby who suffered irreversible and devastating brain damage at birth. The NHS Trust responsible admitted negligence during his birth, which resulted in his brain being starved of oxygen. The resultant lifelong injuries have resulted in the boy, who is now a teenager, suffering from profound disabilities and seizures. He also has a substantially reduced life expectancy. The case for negligence was due to be heard in London today but was instead settled out of court for a significant sum.

High Court rules against continuing life support

This Shropshire case chimes with another case currently in the news. As reported by the BBC, a year ago a baby suffered catastrophic brain damage in the King’s College Hospital, London, due to being deprived of oxygen during his birth. The infant has been on life support since then and in January 2018, the judge ruled that continuing with this care was not in his best interest. He ruled that the child should be withdrawn from the life support equipment and instead should be now be managed solely with palliative care. The baby’s family is currently preparing an appeal against the withdrawal of the intensive care, which will be heard at the end of this month.

Collection of data on newborns

Given the implications of infant brain damage, it is surely surprising that until recently the UK health services had no rigorous system to define and collate data on infant brain injury. This situation changed at the end of 2017, when the Neonatal Data Analysis Unit based in Imperial College London, together with the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, developed a method of measuring the incidence rate of brain injury in babies.

As quoted on the Imperial College website, Dr Neena Modi said, ‘With colleagues and in collaboration with the Department of Health, we have devised a practical way to measure the incident rate of brain injury in babies’. This research represents the first time that routine data collected on neonatal units estimates the number of babies with brain injuries. Dr Chris Gale said, ‘Being able to measure how common brain injuries are, allows health professionals […] to focus on reducing these devastating conditions’.

Making England a safer place to give birth

This new system of reporting represents one arm in the governmental bid to make England a safer place to give birth. Back in 2015, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans to reduce the rate of brain injuries suffered by infants during or soon after birth. The announcement on the website stated that by working with experts to ensure best practice in the NHS, the government would ensure that ‘every mother and baby receive the best and safest care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week’.

Consequently, and according to reporting from the Imperial College London, the Department of Health has set a target to reduce the number of birth injuries by 20% in the year 2020 and to reduce this number by 50% by 2030.

However, the Care Quality Commission’s new report suggests that these targets may not be reached.

Care Quality Commission

New research by the Care Quality Commission shows that almost one in four women are left alone during birth or labour. While this number is marginally reduced from a similar survey from 2015, it points to the fact that midwifery staffing levels are insufficient. Indeed, the NHS’s own policy is that women giving birth should always have a midwife or doctor with them. Surely adequate care and supervision during labour and birth is the primary way of ensuring the safety of both mother and child?

So, while government targets around safer birthing practices are laudable and may pan out to be successful, with chronic understaffing of NHS maternity services, it is likely we will continue to read of tragic and avoidable brain injuries affecting newborn babies.

At Osbornes Law we care about how you are treated both by medical professionals at your GP surgery or at a hospital and also under the care of private providers of health services. If you think that the care you or a loved one has received fell below the standards expected of a reasonably competent professional, then please do not hesitate to contact Partner and specialist medical negligence lawyer Stephanie Prior on 020 7681 8671.

Share this article


Birth Injury News & InsightsVIEW ALL

  1. baby hand in mothers hand

    5-figure settlement for birth injury to mother

    Elline Demetriou has reached another successful outcome for a Claimant, who pursued a birth injury to mother claim against an...

    Read more
  2. water

    Perineal Tear case settles for 6-figure sum

    Stephanie Prior recently settled a birth injury claim relating to a woman who delivered her baby after a traumatic labour....

    Read more
  3. 21.9.2022

    Are maternity services safe? – Part 2

    In April last year I wrote a piece about government setting up a taskforce to look into why there are...

    Read more
  4. 8.9.2022

    Poor interpretation of CTG can result in stillbirth...

    Poor interpretation of a Cardiotocograph, more commonly known as a CTG, is a leading cause of stillbirth and brain injuries...

    Read more
  5. 1.8.2022

    Successful settlement for birth injury that led to...

    Stephanie Prior’s case relating to the death of Gabriela Pintilie has settled and has been approved by the High...

    Read more
  6. 29.6.2022

    Nottingham Maternity: Donna Ockenden to Chair Independent Inquiry

    An interim report on the state of maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust has just been released. However,...

    Read more
  7. Neglijenta medicala spital din UK

    Justice for client who suffered serious birth injuries

    The Clinical Negligence team at Osbornes Law have recently negotiated the settlement of a case in which our client sustained...

    Read more
  8. 6.4.2022

    Stephanie Prior Comments on the Ockenden ‘Maternity Scandal’...

    Following the publication of the Ockenden Report, an independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust,...

    Read more
  9. Neglijenta medicala spital din UK

    Women from ethnic minorities experience worse maternity care

    It has been reported today that the government has set up a new task force to look into why there...

    Read more
  10. pregnant lady

    999 Call Handlers Maternity Instructions Report

    HSIB Report on Maternity Pre-arrival Instructions from 999 Call Handlers The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (“HSIB”) investigate NHS maternity incidents that...

    Read more
  11. 14.2.2022

    Recent birth injury cases

    Osbornes Law specialises in helping families who have suffered a birth injury. We have represented families who have suffered the...

    Read more
  12. 27.1.2022

    Recent cerebral palsy cases

    Osbornes Law specialises in helping families where a child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. We represent clients and families...

    Read more
  13. lesiones de nacimiento

    Likely settlement of £15-20 million for cerebral palsy...

    A client who suffered cerebral palsy injuries at birth was awarded £200,000 as an interim payment in a claim against NHS...

    Read more
  14. 12.1.2022

    Wrongful birth claim successfully settled

    Background Our client, J, fell pregnant in October 2015 and took the difficult decision to undergo a termination. She booked an...

    Read more
  15. white rose

    Maternity claim for fatality following caesarean section

    Stephanie Prior is acting for a gentleman whose wife died after she had a caesarean section. The claim is on...

    Read more
  16. stethoscope

    Stillbirth client story

    Stephanie Prior is currently acting for a young woman who was admitted to hospital and left for significant periods of...

    Read more
  17. 17.11.2021

    NICE revises guidelines on Induced labour

    Most babies are born naturally at around 40 weeks gestation. However, some pregnancies continue for longer. According to data from the...

    Read more
  18. maternity hospital

    Compensation for Negligence in Maternity Cases

    According to the UK’s National Audit Office, the cost to the NHS of medical negligence compensation is currently sitting...

    Read more
  19. hospital bed

    Osbornes Successfully Settle Wrongful Birth Claim

    Nicholas Leahy, clinical negligence lawyer at Osbornes Law has recently negotiated the successful settlement of a wrongful birth case. Our...

    Read more
  20. white lilies

    Stillbirth following water birth at home

    Nicholas Leahy acted for a young woman who had a water birth at home and two midwives were allocated to...

    Read more
  21. nurse in hospital

    Impacted Fetal Head During Labour: Maternity Negligence

    According to the World Health Organisation, labour is considered obstructed when the fetus cannot progress along the birth canal, despite...

    Read more
  22. 18.5.2021

    Erb’s palsy injury caused by well-know private...

    Our solicitor secured Erb’s palsy injury compensation against a well-known obstetrician who works for the country’s best-known private...

    Read more
  23. 18.5.2021

    Cerebral Palsy injuries suffered at birth likely settlement...

    A client who suffered cerebral palsy injuries at birth was awarded over £375,000 as an interim payment in a claim against...

    Read more
  24. hospital signs

    Failure to diagnose and treat Ogilvie’s syndrome

    Our client  suffered the consequences of a delayed diagnosis of Ogilvie’s syndrome following the birth of her daughter by...

    Read more