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Coroner slams 'conspiracy of midwives' to hide negligence after baby death

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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A coroner has condemned midwives at Furness General Hospital in Barrow after they repeatedly failed to notice that a newborn baby had an infection, which later killed him.
In October 2008, nine-day-old Joshua Titcombe died from a common infection after medical staff continually ignored his parents’ concerns about his health, advising them ‘not to worry.’

During the inquest which concluded on Monday, coroner Ian Smith heavily criticised the midwives who cared for Joshua, accusing them of collaborating to cover-up their failure to recognise that he had an infection.
Following Joshua’s birth, his mother became unwell and was treated with antibiotics for an infection. She became worried when Joshua was wheezy and not feeding. His low body temperature had also prompted staff to put him in a heating cot.
Joshua’s father said he and his wife had urged staff at Furness General Hospital to treat Joshua with antibiotics but they were told he seemed well and did not even need to see a doctor. They were told that a paediatrician was 'too busy' to see Joshua.
Joshua's health continued to deteriorate and he was transferred to the special care baby unit and put on a ventilator. He was later diagnosed as suffering with the same pneumococcas infection as his mother.

The 11 midwives who gave evidence claimed they did not know that a baby’s low temperature was a potential sign of infection. However, Smith refuted their claim, stating that they should have been aware of this ‘simple, basic fact that’s in textbooks’. He accused the 11 midwives of collaborating to conceal their negligence.
Smith also stated that he believed a missing observation chart detailing Joshua’s care had been deliberately removed from his medical records. The inquest was told that the chart which included records of Joshua’s temperatures, heart rate, breathing and feeding patterns could not be located.
The inquest heard that there was an 80% chance that Joshua would have survived if he had been given antibiotics in the hours following his birth. However, the infection went on to damage his lungs and he was airlifted to two other hospitals for treatment. Despite attempts to save him, Joshua died from a massive haemorrhage nine days after being born.
The coroner’s verdict was that Joshua died from natural causes. However, he concluded the hearing by highlighting serious errors that had contributed to his death.
He said there had been a collective failure to recognise the child had an infection and a failure to carry out treatment protocols in dealing with Joshua which contributed to his death.

In a statement issued by the hospital, chief executive Tony Halsall said: 'We have listened carefully to the comments made by the coroner.
“From the outset we admitted that mistakes were made for which everyone involved is sincerely sorry. We acknowledge that we did not deliver the high standard of care that Joshua and his parents were entitled to and, for this, we have apologised.”
If you believe that you have received midwifery care below a reasonable standard then we have a dedicated team of clinical negligence solicitors who would be happy to advise you further. Call us for free initial advice on 01616 966 229.