Damages after baby’s death at Chichester hospital

Layla Jones died at St Richard's Hospital in December 2011 SUS-140404-130625001
Layla Jones died at St Richard's Hospital in December 2011 SUS-140404-130625001

A COUPLE have accepted ‘five-figure’ damages after the death of their baby.

Caroline Jones and Jeff Wiggins, from West Wittering, were expecting their first baby in December, 2011.

But three-day-old Layla, who was overdue, died at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, after a ‘string of 
serious errors’.

More than two years after her death, the couple have accepted damages from Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs St Richard’s.

“Caroline and Jeff understandably suffered severe emotional trauma after Layla’s death,” said the couple’s lawyer, Oliver Thorne, from Michelmores Solicitors.

“The failings at the hospital were unacceptable and shouldn’t have happened.”

A statement, released on behalf of the family, said when Caroline was admitted to St Richard’s she noticed the presence of a green tar-like liquid, meconium – usually a sign the baby is in distress.

The statement continued: “A monitor showed baby Layla’s heart rate was worryingly low, though several senior staff reviewed it and took 
no action.

“When the consultant arrived he declared the reading to be ‘non-reassuring’. Caroline was in considerable pain and was given an epidural.

“Layla’s heart rate continued to fall and it was decided to carry out an emergency caesarean.

“She was limp and blue when she was born and it was an 
hour before she took her first breath.”

Layla was transferred to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, where she received further treatment, but was taken back to 
St Richard’s Hospital for palliative care when her situation failed 
to improve.

The couple’s solicitors said they were not made aware of the severity of Layla’s condition until hours after her birth.

“There was a string of serious errors,” said Mr Thorne.

“Late heart-rate decelerations coupled with meconium in 
the amniotic fluid 
is an extremely worrying sign.

“However, it’s to the trust’s credit that they settled the case early. The last thing Caroline and Jeff needed would have been protracted legal proceedings.”

A root-cause analysis into Layla’s death concluded there was a lack of leadership during Caroline’s labour and a lack of senior ongoing contact with her.

“There was also nobody to whom less senior staff could express their concerns,” said the statement.

Cathy Stone, director of nursing and patient safety, said: “This is an extremely sad case, and we apologised to the family at the time. I would like to repeat that apology now.

“We came to a settlement immediately because we did not wish to put the family through any more distress.

“Such cases are thankfully extraordinarily rare, but truly devastating for those affected.

“Since 2011 we have made changes to the training of our staff, and looked again at how we communicate with parents facing the loss of a child.”