By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottingham University Hospitals has admitted to serious failings in the care of a baby who died 23 minutes after she was born.
Baby Wynter Andrews died at Nottingham Queen’s Medical Centre in 2019, in what was described by a coroner as “a clear and obvious case of neglect”.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) has now 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 and her mother, Sarah Andrews.
The hearing took place at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 25 January before District Judge Grace Leong.
The unusual prosecution is one of only two the CQC has brought against an NHS maternity unit.
The trust will be sentenced on Friday, with a substantial fine a possible punishment. Prison sentences are not considered because it is an organisation, not an individual, who has been convicted.
Last year, East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust was fined a record £761,000 by the CQC over its failure to protect baby Harry Richford and his mum Sarah.
NUH, where maternity units are currently rated inadequate, is also facing a wider inquiry by experienced midwife Donna Ockenden.
Speaking after the hearing, Wynter’s parents Sarah and Gary Andrews said: “As first-time parents, all we ever wanted was to bring our precious baby home.
“Multiple investigations and the conclusions of the Coroner, revealed that we were failed in the most cruel way by a Trust Board that has allowed the maternity services at the Hospital to become fundamentally unsafe.
“Management at the Trust were repeatedly warned by staff about the safety of the unit but failed to act.
“They were repeatedly warned by bereaved and harmed families but failed to listen and learn.
“They were repeatedly told by different investigative bodies over many years about maternity safety concerns at the Trust, yet they failed to make the critical changes needed.
“We hope that this criminal prosecution against the Trust for its unsafe care will finally be the jolt they need to prioritise patient safety and result in meaningful change.”
They encouraged parents who were concerned about their maternity care to contact the Ockenden review team.
Prosecutor Ryan Donoghue said Mrs Andrews and Wynter were “exposed to a significant risk of avoidable harm”.
He referenced nine areas in which the trust failed to care for the mother and baby.
He said the trust failed to involve obstetricians at various stages in Mrs Andrews’ care, and said staff working for the trust did not have access to the notes made by community midwives.
He said: “Wynter was born in a poor condition with a very slow heartbeat.
“The umbilical cord had to be unwrapped from Wynter’s foot and neck.”
He said concerns over Wynter and Sarah’s condition should have led to an emergency caesarean section being carried out within 30 minutes.
The caesarean was not carried out until three hours later.
Bernard Thorogood, the Trust’s barrister, said the trust is currently in a “very challenging year financially” with a deficit moving towards £20m.
He said: “The first thing I must do on behalf of the trust is to express its deepest regret and apology.
“When one measures many years of safe operations, hundreds of thousands of individual procedures, without any previous conviction or other enforcement action, then the nature of the good character of the trust is in sharp focus.
“This is a high risk environment across many sites and the absence of previous convictions is a weighty risk for mitigation.
“The trust is led by people who only want to do the best they can for service users.
“When a public body which only wants to do good appears in a criminal court it has a very big impact. it can make all staff feel accused.”
He added that the shortage in midwives “stems from a long term national and local recruitment challenge”.
He added: “The trust’s heart was in the right place and it had a responsible attitude for all of its patients.
“Staff were experienced, trained and devoted to helping mothers through birth.
“Training, we accept has not always been what it should be.”
Following the hearing, NUH Chief Executive Anthony May said: “We are truly sorry for the pain and grief that we caused Mr and Mrs Andrews due to failings in the maternity care we provided. We let them down at what should have been a joyous time in their lives.
“Today, we pleaded guilty and will accept, in full, the findings of the court.
“While words will never be enough, I can assure our communities that staff across NUH are committed to providing good quality care every day and we are working hard to make the necessary improvements that are needed for our local communities, including engaging fully and openly with Donna Ockenden and her team on their ongoing independent review into our maternity services.”
NUH will be sentenced on Friday, January 27.