By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
The parents of a baby who died at the Queen’s Medical Centre say “no amount of money will bring Wynter back” following a landmark court ruling which handed a record fine to the hospital.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) pleaded guilty to two criminal charges prosecuted by the healthcare watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The commission took the trust to court for its “failure to provide safe care and treatment” to both baby Wynter, who lived for 23 minutes, and her mother, Sarah Andrews.
District Judge Grace Leong handed the trust an £800,000 fine as well as £13,668.65 in legal costs and a victim surcharge of £181. The money will go to the Treasury.
Wynter died from a loss of oxygen flow to the brain after being born on September 15 2019.
An inquest heard her death could have been prevented if staff had carried out an emergency caesarean section earlier.
During Friday’s criminal case the judge said she was born in a “poor condition” with the umbilical cord wrapped around her foot and neck.
The initial hearing took place at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 25 January, and the sentence and fine was handed to NUH on Friday (January 27).
NUH, where maternity units are currently rated inadequate, is also facing a wider inquiry by experienced midwife Donna Ockenden.
The unusual prosecution is one of only two the CQC has brought against an NHS maternity unit.
Chief Executive of NUH Anthony May apologised to Mr and Mrs Andrews “for the failings in care that led to the tragic death of their baby Wynter”.
Speaking outside court after the hearing, Wynter’s parents Gary and Sarah Andrews said: “Today’s sentencing hearing has demonstrated the seriousness of the Trust’s failings towards Wynter and I.
“These criminal proceedings are designed to act as a punishment and a deterrent. No financial penalty will ever bring Wynter back.
“We thank the judge and recognise the delicate balance she made to impose this significant fine, which we hope sends a clear message to the trust managers that they must hold patient safety in the highest regard.
“Sadly, we are not the only family harmed by the trust’s failings. We feel that this sentence isn’t just for Wynter, but it’s for all the babies who have gone before and after her.”
Mr May told the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the hearing that the trust “accepts completely the findings of the court today”.
He said: “I would like to pay tribute to Mr and Mrs Andrews for pursuing this case, they have been tremendously courageous and it has clearly caused them a great deal of pain and suffering.
“My focus must be on improving services.
“No fine, no matter the extent, can bring back baby Wynter or alleviate the pain of Mr and Mrs Andrews. Of course, it shows the seriousness of what happened.
“I would like to ensure local people that we will do absolutely everything we can to mitigate the impact of this fine.
“I will work with my colleagues to make sure that if we need to make savings, we make them in a way to protect front line services.”
He added that a number of improvements have been made to maternity services.
He said: “We’ve got better staffing levels, better training, better adherence to local guidelines, better equipment, a 24-hour advice line, our triage arrangements have improved.
“We’ve got apps for staff so they can get the advice they need at the touch of a button, we are much clearer about when colleagues should escalate things between midwives and doctors, we’ve got more senior colleagues in the unit and we are focusing really hard on culture.
“We are utterly committed to making services as safe as they can be.
“We failed the staff just as much as we failed Mr and Mrs Andrews. We are making sure that all staff on our units are safe to practice.”
Georgina Peckett, who is representing Mr and Mrs Andrews in a separate civil case against the trust, said: “The judge has made a fair and considered assessment when imposing the fine and determining the amount of money to be paid by the trust.
“It doesn’t deal with the accountability of the management team which was in place a the time.
“No amount of money is ever going to bring Wynter back, but hopefully this will be a deterrent to the trust and a catalyst for change which will make maternity services safer.”