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Baby died after hospital 'neglect' and 'gross failure' coroner says.


The death of a baby boy only hours after his mother was turned away from a maternity unit was due to natural causes "contributed to by neglect" and "gross failure", a coroner has ruled.

The baby, Archie Batten, died on 1 September 2019 at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM), Margate, Kent.

His mother, Rachel Higgs, was initially turned away because the maternity unit was full.

She was seen at home by midwives but taken back to the QEQM by ambulance when they realised it was an emergency case.

Her baby, Archie, lived for only 27 minutes due to a hypoxic brain injury caused by prolonged labour.

The coroner heard Rachel Higgs was frustrated at being turned away from the maternity unit in the morning when she had gone to complain of vomiting and extreme pain and was told she was not far enough into labour to be admitted.

Ms Higgs, who said it made her feel humiliated and that she was not being believed, returned home to Broadstairs with her partner, Andrew Batten, but continued to feel unwell so phoned the hospital.

She was told the unit was now closed, with all beds occupied and it was suggested they drive themselves to the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford.

Andrew Batten told the inquest the midwives looked "terrified," and that there was "an air of panic", with them whispering in the hallway, instead of telling him and Ms Higgs what was happening.

Ms Higgs was then taken back to the QEQM by ambulance where Archie was delivered but pronounced dead 27 minutes later.

Under examination from the family's barrister, Richard Baker, the midwife who had originally seen Ms Higgs, Victoria Jackson, admitted the high number of patients she had to deal with had affected her ability to spend time with her. She said she now wished she had admitted Ms Higgs.

Assistant coroner for South Eastern England, Sonia Hayes, said she was satisfied that a "gross failure to provide basic medical checks" led to Archie's death.

She said Archie was showing signs of foetal distress "that should've been acted upon", and if he had been admitted to the QEQM hospital earlier he "would've been born without injury in hospital.”

She said the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust did not have a clear plan for labour, had "no oversight" and missed opportunities.

Chief executive, Tracey Fletcher said: "I apologise unreservedly to Archie's parents and family for Archie's death. We fully accept the coroner's findings and are deeply sorry for the failings in the care provided to Archie and his family. We have made - and continue to make - changes and improvements to the quality and safety of our maternity service.

"Since Archie's death, we have made changes to how we care for women and babies during a homebirth, and to how we provide the service when the hospital maternity units are busy."

In a statement following the inquest, Archie's parents, Rachel and Andrew, said: "It seems incredible to us that so many basic mistakes were made by so many people on the day of Archie's birth and death.

"We think about him and miss him every day and always will. We hope that true lessons will be learned from his case and lasting changes made to ensure that other families do not suffer such tragedies in the future."

An independent review is underway into the deaths of up to 15 babies at the hospital in recent years.