Inquest into Death of Baby at Furness General Hospital

The inquest into the death of baby Elleanor Bennett, which took place at the end of September 2013, caught my attention recently.

Elleanor died in the Furness General Hospital in February 2004 as a result of failures to monitor her heart rate during her mother’s labour with her. Unusually, the inquest was only opened nine years later after police, investigating deaths of babies and mothers at the Maternity Unit of Furness General Hospital, spoke to her parents about their concerns. Inquests cannot attribute liability and in Elleanor’s case, the Coroner found she died “due to complications during the birthing process.”

Whilst not every death of a baby is due to negligence, the reports indicate that there were some failures in Elleanor’s care. The Trust responsible for the Furness General Hospital has stated, “we have accepted that some of the care provided to Mrs Bennett in 2004 during the course of her labour and delivery was inappropriate and that steps should have been taken to deliver Elleanor sooner."

Having acted for a number of families who have suffered the traumatic loss of a child either during birth or shortly after, (including families who lost children at the Furness General Hospital), my thoughts are with the Bennetts. The unusual feature of the case – finding out that there were grave concerns about Elleanor’s care through the police over eight years after her passing - can only have added to their grief. The fight for a duty of candour in the NHS continues.