National Ombudsmen
Printable version

Mother left ‘too scared to try for another child’ after doctors failed her during labour

A pregnant woman with a mood disorder was left ‘confused and terrified’ after doctors failed to realise she was in labour and refused to call her partner to be with her.

The 39-year-old from Buckinghamshire who has cyclothymia, which is similar to bipolar disorder, said her experience at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust has left her too scared to have another baby.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, who earlier this year published a report about repeated failings in England’s maternity services, found medics failed in their care.

The Ombudsman found that the Trust failed to act in line with NICE guidance by not examining the woman when she was having regular painful contractions and by failing to provide timely and effective pain relief.

It was also a failure to not arrange for her partner to attend the hospital.

The Ombudsman recommended the Trust apologise and make improvements to prevent other parents experiencing similar failings. It also advised them to pay the woman £875 for her pain and distress. The Trust has complied.

Ombudsman Rob Behrens recently said:

“Too often, the wellbeing of women and babies is put at risk by a lack of safe, effective, and compassionate care. Sadly, this is yet another example of a woman being let down by medical staff during what should have been one of the happiest times of her life.

“When the patient tried to complain and raise her concerns, she wasn’t listened to. Instead she was faced with a dismissive attitude that is unfortunately all too common in the NHS and has a direct impact on patient safety. More must be done to protect mothers and their babies and keep them safe from harm.”

The woman was pregnant with her first child when she attended the hospital for a planned induction to bring on labour.

She was given a pessary to start contractions in the afternoon. That evening, she began having regular contractions, was in increasing pain and her waters broke, but medics failed to realise she was in established labour.

The woman should have been seen by a midwife an hour earlier than she was. She was not given gas and air for three hours and despite asking for pain relief, it took five hours for doctors to give her an epidural. This goes against guidelines.

The woman recently said:

“I was on the floor on my hands and knees in so much pain. My whole body was shaking and I felt confused and terrified.

“No one was coming to help me and when they did, they were dismissive. I was treated like I was making a fuss over nothing.

“To be refused the pain relief I requested and instead told to try a bath was utterly unacceptable. I was so frightened. To know your safety was entrusted to staff that hadn’t fulfilled the basics of their duty of care is really concerning.”

When the woman asked the hospital to call her partner, she was told he needed to be at home resting and that she had to call him herself, which she did.

A specialist midwife clinical adviser to the PHSO said there was no reason her partner couldn’t be there, particularly as she had known mental health issues.

The woman recently said:

“The main thing that will live with me forever is the fact my partner couldn’t be there when I was in pain and needed him the most. I was robbed of having that support.

“My ordeal is a very large factor in us not having any more children. The trauma has been so scarring that we don’t want to risk going through the same experience again. No siblings for our daughter, no cousins for her children.

“We had meetings with the hospital afterwards and we were once again dismissed and not listened to. I started a formal complaint, but they came back with ‘we are sorry you feel this way’ and they weren’t taking responsibility. I was determined to get to the bottom of it all and reached out to the Ombudsman.

“I still feel anger, but going through the Ombudsman process and being listened to literally makes me cry with happiness. I’ve felt so supported and it has helped so much.”


Original article link:

Share this article

Latest News from
National Ombudsmen

WiredGov Survey Report: How Are Public Sector Budget Cuts Hurting Talent Acquisition?