Our baby was born brain dead: Imogen died in her parents’ arms after ‘critical failures’ by midwives
The parents of a baby girl delivered brain dead after a series of ‘critical failures’ by hospital midwives want health bosses to ensure lessons a learned so the ‘same tragedy won’t happen again’.
Imogen Skelcher suffered irreversible brain damage in the womb and her life support machine was switched off when she was just two days old. She died in the arms of her parents Samantha Hewings and David Skelcher in March 2011.
The couple have been awarded a five figure sum after launching legal action against the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, following their daughter’s death.
Legal firm Irwin Mitchell, which is acting for the parents, from Atherstone in Warwickshire, says the hospital trust has now settled the matter with an undisclosed payment to pay for grief counselling.
An independent report found staff at the hospital had not followed guidelines, and failed to spot Imogen’s heart rate was dangerously low.
Miss Hewings, 27, suffered a ruptured uterus during the birth in March 2011, and Imogen was eventually delivered by Caesarean section.
They already had a young son Jack born in 2009, and have since had another baby boy named Alfie.
Miss Hewings said: ‘After I was induced and went into labour the pain was far worse than anything I had experienced.
‘I knew something wasn’t right. I was so distracted with the pain I didn’t notice the heart monitor and how low Imogen’s heart rate was dropping.
‘As soon as I realised, I called a midwife and she notified a doctor and I was rushed for a caesarean section.
‘Nothing can turn back the clock, but we just hope that the hospital trust has learned lessons so the same tragedy won’t happen again.’
The trust offered its ‘profound apologies for the failings in care provided’ to the couple, saying lessons had been learned.
The report found staff had failed to identify the pregnancy as high risk despite Miss Hewings’s first baby Jack being delivered by Caesarean.
It concluded staff had also failed to recognise and act on Miss Hewings’s deteriorating condition, and failed to communicate the urgency of the situation, stating there had been a lack of communication throughout the labour and approved guidelines had not been followed.
The report recommended educating labour ward staff on heart monitoring, improving communication between midwives and doctors, more thorough note-taking and a tightening of guidelines for natural births following a C-section.
Imogen’s parents later decided to donate their daughter’s organs so others might avoid the trauma of losing a child.
Sara Burns, partner at Irwin Mitchell’s, said: ‘An independent report highlighted a series of critical errors made by midwives and included recommendations to ensure the same mistakes cannot be made again.
‘It is absolutely vital that the trust now proves these recommendations have been implemented to give peace of mind to current and future patients that their safety is the top priority.’
A spokesman for the hospital said: ‘George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust wishes to express its sincere condolences to the family and offers its profound apologies for the failings in the care provided. ‘Several lessons have been learned as a result of this case and changes implemented to improve processes as a result.
‘A legal claim has been presented by the family and a settlement has been agreed between the parties. It would be inappropriate for the Trust to comment further.’
‘I found a live snail in my hospital dinner’: New mum, 20, tells of supper horror on maternity ward
A young mother has spoken of her shock at finding a snail in her hospital dinner shortly after giving birth.
Angel Crawford, 20, recoiled in horror after spotting the mollusc while eating her mashed potato at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.
The model and musician, who was recovering with new baby Aimee, has vowed never to eat hospital food again.
‘At first I didn’t even notice it,’ she said. ‘But then I started eating and after one or two mouthfuls I saw it. ‘I stopped and said “that looks like a snail.” I looked closer and I started repeating “oh my god, what is that?” and then Gavin my fiance said “It’s definitely a snail.” ‘It was still alive and I just felt totally sick.’
Ms Crawford, who was already worried about the quality of hospital food before the incident on November 29, admitted the experience has put her off hospital food for life.
She said: ‘When you’re going through all the emotions after giving birth and then you’re worried about your child if she’s not doing too well, it’s not a good experience to have when you just want to eat.’
Ms Crawford, from Aberdeen, Scotland, contacted Richard Carey, the chief executive of NHS Grampian, to complain about the event and she received an apology on Tuesday.
Mr Carey’s letter said he was concerned to hear about the ‘upsetting experience’ and an investigation revealed the snail had found its way onto the plate via a packet of frozen peas. He added: ‘These peas have been returned to the supplier for them to conduct their own investigations and respond to NHS Grampian.
‘On behalf of NHS Grampian, I offer my sincere apologies for the distress this incident must have caused you and would wish to assure you that this is an isolated incident.’
But Ms Crawford has called for the hospital’s food standards to improve. She said: ‘They said that I could take a tour of their kitchen to try and change my opinion of them but I don’t think it’s good enough.
‘I think they need to look into it and make their standards better, not just the supplier that it went through, but also the NHS, the kitchen and then the people actually handing out the meals. ‘It goes through quite a lot of hands and so for it to go unnoticed is shocking.
‘I just want to prevent this happening to someone else because it’s not really something people should have to go through when they’re in hospital.’
A spokesman for NHS Grampian added: ‘This is a supply chain issue and we have taken the matter up with the company.
‘More than 3,000 meals a day are cooked for our hospitals, and all our kitchens are subject to regular environmental health inspections.
‘Food is bought under a national contract and in this case the peas are cooked in bulk before being plated.
‘We were dismayed to learn of the presence of a foreign body in this meal and will share the outcome of the supplier’s investigation with Ms Crawford.’
British schools shut as soon as they see a snowflake
Be honest, how many times can you remember your old school being closed because of the weather? Once? Twice? Never?
I have memories of trudging through thick snow in a balaclava, wellies and short trousers, with wringing wet woollen gloves hanging from a piece of string knotted at the neck of my gabardine mac.
My knees were red raw, my nose was running and my heart was pounding with the thrill of snowball fights and sliding on treacherous sheets of ice created by tipping cold water on to the pavement and waiting for it to freeze.
During lessons we’d peer through frosty windows at the winter wonderland outside, willing the bell to ring so that the festivities could be resumed.
Maybe there was the odd day when the rackety radiator pipes froze or the ancient boiler gave up the ghost. But frankly, I can’t remember any school I attended ever being padlocked because of a light dusting of snow.
I’m old enough to recall the severe winter of 1963, one of the coldest on record. But to the best of my recollection our junior school kept its doors open throughout. In fact, my abiding memory of that winter was ice-skating with my dad on the Fens, which had been specially flooded for the purpose.
Certainly I can’t imagine my old headmaster letting a cold snap get in the way of our education. But he belonged to a generation of teachers who had been through World War II. Some of them probably served on the Arctic convoys. They weren’t going to flinch in the face of a couple of inches of snow.
Come to think of it, I’m not sure my own kids were ever sent home from school because of the weather, either. And that doesn’t seem all that long ago.
So why was it necessary yesterday to shut 5,000 schools across the country?
According to the chairman of the local government association’s ‘Children and Young People’ directorate: ‘Ultimately, head teachers, in consultation with school governors, make the final decision on whether or not to close a school. This is based on a range of local circumstances including the number of teachers who can make it into work safely, dangerous road conditions, or problems with vital supplies such as food, heating or water.’
It may well have been that in some remote rural areas, roads were impassible. Parts of the country have been worse affected than others, especially in the North East. But in Barnet, for instance, 60 schools were shut.
Why? I was out and about in North London at the weekend and the gritters and transport companies had done a great job.
All the major roads were clear, the buses and Tubes seemed to be running normally. The only weather-related disruption in Barnet was the panic-buying in Waitrose, where the car park was overflowing and shoppers were squabbling over trolleys as they stripped the shelves bare.
There was no earthly reason why any teacher in Barnet couldn’t get to work. In fact, just a few miles away in Hackney, only one secondary school and two primary schools closed.
So why the discrepancy? My guess is that in Barnet, and elsewhere, the risk assessment brigade pulled on their hi-viz jackets, consulted their insurers and decided to take the line of least resistance.
If they shut the schools, there’s no danger that anyone would slip over in the playground and sue for compensation.
Curiously, though, it’s only ever the public services that seem to collapse with monotonous predictability whenever there’s ‘adverse weather’. Everyone else just gets on with it.
At White Hart Lane, the game between Spurs and Manchester United went ahead in the teeth of a snowstorm. And my local curry house, Tandoori Nights, was absolutely heaving.
People clearly weren’t letting a few snowflakes get in the way of a chicken vindaloo. And I can’t help wondering now how many of my fellow diners braving the elements on Saturday night are employed as teachers in the London Borough of Barnet and were yesterday enjoying an undeserved day at home in front of the fire.
Some people are made of sterner stuff. Mike, our postman, got through as usual. So did Mr Patel with the papers. Why was it, then, that Barnet council thought opening the schools presented a uniquely hazardous proposition and was therefore to be avoided at all costs?
What was also utterly predictable was that Heathrow would go into meltdown at the drop of a snowflake, even though other airports soldiered on smoothly. If Heathrow really has spent £36 million on cold weather emergency kit over the past two years, there wasn’t much evidence of it — apart from a handful of new brooms and a couple of plastic snow shovels.
And while we’re at it, I’m sick and tired of assorted officials and dopey birds on the weather forecast telling us not to go out unless our journey is essential. Why would anyone go out in this weather unless they had to?
Oi, Doris, get your coat on, pet. There’s a blizzard outside so I thought we’d take a nice non-essential drive in the country.
There’s no escape from this patronising nonsense. A friend flew into Stansted from Glasgow on Friday. As her plane was making its descent, the captain came on the intercom with the usual update on the weather at their destination.
But instead of just telling passengers it was a bit parky, he insisted on advising them to ‘please make sure you dress in accordance with the weather conditions’.
What the hell has that got to do with him? Does he think a grown woman from the West of Scotland might change into a skimpy frock and flip-flops before disembarking at snowy Stansted?
And so what if she did? It’s none of easyJet’s damn business. Stop treating us all like children.
Now where did I put my balaclava?
‘You can tell somebody’s background by their weight’: Health minister says poor people are likely to be obese
Some surprising frankness from Britain
Health Minister Anna Soubry has risked controversy by claiming that she can spot poor people in the street because they are usually overweight.
The Conservative MP, who has responsibility for public health, said a culture of unhealthy TV dinners and junk food has eroded family life and that many homes no longer even have a dining table.
The MP for Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, said: ‘When I go to my constituency, when I walk around, you can almost now tell somebody’s background by their weight. Obviously not everybody who is overweight comes from deprived backgrounds, but that’s where the propensity lies.’
Speaking at a conference hosted by the Food and Drink Federation, which represents UK manufacturers, she warned them that they should voluntarily cut the amount of fat, sugar and salt in their products or ministers may have to force them to act through legislation.
She said it was ‘heartbreaking’ that the poorest in the country were those at greatest risk of obesity.
‘A third of our children leave primary school overweight or obese,’ she said. ‘When I was at school, you could tell the demography of children by how thin they were.’
But now, in a ‘deeply ironic’ turnaround, poor children tend to be overweight because their parents supply them with ‘an abundance of bad food’, she told the Daily Telegraph.
Miss Soubry put the responsibility for properly feeding children firmly with their parents, who should ensure that they have family meals. ‘What they don’t do is actually sit down and share a meal around the table,’ she said. ‘There are houses where they don’t have dining tables. They will sit in front of the telly and eat.
‘It doesn’t mean to say you can’t ever sit in front of the telly and have a meal, but I believe children need structure in their lives, they need routine.’
According to Department of Health figures, the poorest children are almost twice as likely to be obese than the wealthiest.
Government figures published last month showed that 24.3 per cent of the most deprived 11-year-olds in England were obese, compared with 13.7 per cent of children from the wealthiest homes.
Miss Soubry warned in October that the food industry was fuelling the obesity crisis, when she told supermarkets that the cakes and other bakery products it makes were too big.
She said: ‘I’m old enough to remember that when you went into a store and you bought a cake or a croissant, or some other product like that, a bakery product, it was probably half the size of what it is today.’
Immigration into Britain from Eastern Europe
An upbeat view — but time will tell
On January 16th Stewart Jackson, a conservative member of parliament, presented a bill calling to limit the immigration process for Romanian and Bulgarians coming to Britain: “We don’t want to make the same mistake that we made in 2004, which was to import a very large number of low-wage, low-skill workers and embed welfare dependency in our indigenous workforce.” In a speech last month, Theresa May, the home secretary, said that migration puts a downward pressure on wages and has a bad influence on the social cohesion of the country.
Mr Stewart and Ms May omit to mention the positive effects of the last big influx of workers from new EU member countries. It was vastly higher than predicted, but it was also more successful than forecast. According to a study conducted by The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford migrants from so-called A8 countries (the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004) have made a positive contribution to the country’s public finances in each fiscal year since their EU accession. While they mostly work in the lower wage sector, their labour-force participation and employment rates tend to be higher, which offsets the impact of their lower wages.
A number of studies show that immigrants are slowing the ageing of Britain’s population. And despite the popular belief that a new wave of immigrants will increase unemployment the National Institute of Economics and Social Research states that there is no aggregate impact of migration on unemployment.
Maybe most importantly, Britain today is less attractive to would-be immigrants than ten years ago, In 2004, only Britain and two other countries did away with almost all restrictions for workers from A8 countries. Since it was the largest economy of the three and its economy was booming, Britain became a magnet for them. This time, all EU countries are opening their labour markets Romanians and Bulgarians. And Britain’s economy is in dire straits.
Titus Corlăţean, Romania’s minister of foreign affairs, believes figures of Romanians immigrating to Britain next year circulated in the British press are wildly exaggerated. According to Mr Corlăţean the issue has become a British domestic political “game”, kindled by the United Kingdom Independence Party, an insurgent outfit devoted to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. He is relying on the British government that it “will respect what is written in the European Treaty for the accession of Romania, that from January 1st 2014 there will be a free access for Romanians to the labour market in Britain,” he said.
Surveys show that immigration is one of Britons’ biggest concerns. A report by British Future, a think tank, has revealed that people worry more about immigration as a national than as a local issue. Its State of the Nation poll found that 19% chose immigration as a top local worry while 30% placed immigration first when thinking about tensions facing British society as a whole. This suggests that immigration is more a problem of perception than of reality.
Don’t mention the war: Censorship row as BBC cuts “racist” lines from classic Fawlty Towers episode
Amazing that they could tamper with anything so perfect. I always rather liked the Major. He was a very believable character
It is the episode of Fawlty Towers best remembered for the line ‘Don’t mention the war’ and John Cleese’s silly walk when impersonating Hitler.
The references have proved controversial before, but when The Germans was repeated on BBC2 on Sunday evening it wasn’t our European neighbours that the corporation was worried about offending.
Instead, the episode was edited to omit racist language – only for some viewers to then complain that the BBC was ‘airbrushing history’.
In one scene one of the hotel’s permanent residents, Major Gowen, uses derogatory terms to describe black people. It was included in the episode’s first airing in October 1975, but this time around the major’s words were edited out.
The scene involves Basil Fawlty and the major, played by actor Ballard Berkeley, exchanging their normal pleasantries before the conversation moves on to Basil’s wife Sybil and women in general.
The major tells Fawlty about the time he took a woman to see India play cricket at the Oval. He then says: ‘The strange thing was, throughout the morning she kept referring to the Indians as niggers. “No, no, no,” I said, “the niggers are the West Indians. These people are wogs”.’
Several years ago there were concerns that the episode would never be shown again because of the offensive words. However, recent editions of The Complete Fawlty Towers DVD, distributed by BBC Worldwide, have not been edited and included the segment that was cut by the BBC on Sunday.
Some fans took to the BBC’s Points Of View message board yesterday to say they ‘despaired’ at the ‘unnecessary’ editing.
One wrote: ‘You can’t airbrush history away and I doubt if anyone but the terminally thin-skinned could be offended by the major, a character we’re clearly supposed to laugh at rather than with.’
Another posted: ‘The point is that the major is a racist old bigot, incongruous with modern society – even in the Seventies. The audience isn’t supposed to agree with him, they’re supposed to laugh at him. The whole episode is about xenophobia in various forms – it’s social satire. I instinctively dislike the airbrushing of history.’
A third viewer wrote: ‘So how sad BBC you have finally succumbed and lost the guts to transmit the episode of Fawlty Towers “The Germans” in its original form. The major’s speech of his experience of going out with a woman to the Oval is one of the funniest things ever.
‘You edited it because it includes the W-word and the N-word. Let’s face it, the whole episode and much of Fawlty Towers is racist by today’s standards and misogynistic, but above all it is hilarious.
‘We are all grown up, you know. We, the vast majority of us, can laugh at this without being racists.
‘It’s about time you grew up BBC, and trusted your audience. We know what is acceptable and what is not and what is funny and why, and the fact it is of a time which is now long past. We understand context, the major is a figure of fun, he doesn’t whip up hatred.’
Fawlty Towers was written by and starred Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth. The Germans was the sixth episode of the 12 that were made and was voted number 11 in Channel 4’s One Hundred Greatest TV Moments in 1999.
The series has continued to entertain families since being made in the 1970s and was in 2000 voted by industry professionals to be the best British series of all time.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘We are very proud of Fawlty Towers and its contribution to British television comedy.
‘But public attitudes have changed significantly since it was made and it was decided to make some minor changes, with the consent of John Cleese’s management, to allow the episode to transmit to a family audience at 7.30pm on BBC2.’