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Hospital Severely Criticised for Failure to Spot Fatal Infection in Infant

A hospital in Barrow in Furness has been severely criticised by the Cumbria and South East Coroner for staff failure to spot a fatal infection in a newborn baby - despite the parents’ concerns.

During the Inquest into Joshua Titcombe’s death, which concluded on 8th June, it was heard that the infant died of an lung infection
(pneumococcus infection).  It was stated that he would have had an 80% chance of survival had antibiotics been prescribed immediately after his birth.

Joshua had picked up the infection from his mother who had been suffering from a sore throat, headaches and tiredness in the week before his birth.  She was given antibiotics after his delivery.  The child was not.  Both parents asked if he should be given antibiotics but their concerns were waved away.  Both expressed their concern that he was not well only to be told that the paediatrician was too busy to examine him.  At no time was he reviewed by a doctor until his condition was critical.

Joshua became very ill the day after he was born and was airlifted to another hospital.  Sadly he died 9 days later.

Staff were criticised for failing to recognise the symptoms of infection including that the baby’s low temperature could be a sign of infection.  The Paediatrician at the Newcastle Freemans Hospital where he was subsequently transferred told the Inquest that she would normally infer infection in a newborn not maintaining a temperature for the first 24 hours.

The Coroner was scathing in his comments about the care provided by the midwives at the Furness General Hospital expressing extreme concern that notes were missing - in particular the observation chart that recorded Joshua’s temperature, heart rate and feeding pattern.

The Hospital Trust has accepted responsibility and apologised to the parents assuring that all steps that could be taken had been to minimise the risk of this happening again - which included the retraining of midwives.  A police investigation is currently being carried out.

If you require any further information with regard to post natal and birth injuries please contact a member of our clinical negligence team