A COUPLE whose baby daughter died after a catalogue of hospital errors have told of their devastation and called for safeguards to prevent a repeat tragedy.
Debbie and Richard Horner, who live near Tadcaster, lost their daughter Abbie when mistakes by midwives led to her brain being starved of oxygen before birth.
They said they will never recover from the heartbreak of her death and have spoken out in a bid to stop anything similar happening to others.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs St James University Hospital where Abbie was born – has accepted she would most likely be alive today were it not for the failings.
But Mr and Mrs Horner said they had not received an official apology before yesterday and had seen no evidence that a 14-point action plan drawn up after Abbie’s death had been implemented.
Mrs Horner, who was considered at high risk as she was 43 and had previously had a miscarriage, said: “It’s horrendous, a living nightmare and it never goes away. It’s the first thing you think about in the morning and the last at night. You can be driving somewhere and start crying because it comes back.
“I feel angry, very bitter and frustrated because we can’t do anything. We can’t bring her back.
“They have completely ruined our lives.
“We had a car seat in the car and thought we would come out carrying a little girl we had dreamt of.”
After Abbie was finally delivered stillborn by a team of medics on August 17, 2011, 16 minutes were spent trying to resuscitate her.
And despite a machine previously recording that the baby’s heart rate was abnormal, the results were not recorded correctly for eight hours, stopping an emergency caesarean being carried out sooner and causing Abbie catastrophic brain damage.
An investigation into the midwife in charge of Mrs Horner’s care found she breached her duty in numerous ways including misinterpreting the baby’s heartbeat, which was not double-checked as it should have been.
She was suspended from working for 12 months by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Although she was considered high risk, Mrs Horner was also not given a delivery plan by the hospital.
Mrs Horner, now 46, a bank manager, said: “Nothing will ever bring our daughter back but if they can apologise and prove that lessons have been learnt and shared across the NHS, then hopefully we can start to put this horrendous ordeal behind us and try and rebuild our lives.”
Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which admitted full liability and paid an undisclosed settlement, yesterday apologised that the care “fell far short of the high standards” usually provided.
A full investigation has made sure the hospital has learned from what happened, he said, adding the midwife concerned was immediately stopped from practising and has retired.
He said the head of midwifery and lead consultant met the Horners in 2012 to discuss their concerns and express their condolences and apologies, and said: “As chief executive I would like to reiterate how sorry I am on behalf of everyone concerned in this tragic case.”
Kelly Morris, a specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who represents the couple said: “Abbie’s death was completely avoidable and we hope that the action plan drawn up by the Trust has been shared throughout the NHS to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated and patient safety is protected.”