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Coroner concludes baby death at Stockport hospital could have been avoided

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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Young parents who lost their first baby 36 minutes after his birth have been told by the coroner that his life could have been saved if staff at Stepping Hill Hospital had reacted sooner.
Harley Hikin-Balderson was born on 11 September 2009 and suffered from a lack of oxygen during birth. The inquest was told that foetal blood samples showed Harley’s condition was deteriorating and that he should have been delivered as an emergency. However, it took staff a further 2 hours to decide that a caesarean section was necessary, a delay which Coroner, John Pollard, said “substantially contributed to Harley’s death.”
The inquest was told that a blood sample taken at 5.30pm showed alarming signs. However, by this time, the on-call doctor had gone home which left a junior doctor with less than 2 months experience on the ward to deal with a serious medical emergency.
In giving a verdict of medical misadventure, the coroner raised concerns about practices at Stepping Hill Hospital and the level of experience of some of the doctors involved in the delivery of Harley.
Concerns about out-of-hours maternity care have recently been raised by Dr Tony Falconer, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He claimed that many inexperienced doctors working out-of-hours on maternity wards lacked the skills required to ensure babies were delivered safely.
"One of the ironies of the health service, and this view is shared by very senior people, is this culture that the NHS basically runs at one level for 40 hours a week, and at a completely different level for the rest of the week. And when you are dealing with acute services that shouldn't happen.”
Coroner, John Pollard, is set to write to the Secretary of State for Health and the Chief Executive of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust about Harley’s death to make sure such a tragedy does not happen again.
By clinical negligence specialist, Katie Nolan