Advising with empathy and experience

Delay in delivery and cerebral palsy.

London’s High Court has heard how a newborn baby was left facing a lifetime of severe disability after a delivery room doctor mislaid his bleeper whilst on duty.

Rachel Robinson, now 12, suffered oxygen deprivation during the final few traumatic minutes of her mother’s labour at Portsmouth Mary Rose Maternity Unit in May 2001.

The Court heard that all had gone well after Margaret Robinson arrived at hospital until a midwife spotted tell tale signs of foetal heart decelerations. Mrs Robinson was moved to the delivery room and a call was put out to an obstetric registrar. Unfortunately, the doctor had left his bleeper somewhere and was unaware of the unfolding emergency.

He arrived at the scene purely by chance and then spent another minute trying to locate the missing pager.

The evidence heard by the Court was that there was an overall delay of 12 minutes or so in Rachel’s delivery.  The baby girl was left suffering from cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs.

The baby’s father was not present at the time of the delivery as he was serving in the Royal Navy on board HMS Glasgow.

Evidence heard by the Court indicated that the timing of the issues in this case was complex.  The Hospital Trust had insisted that an earlier delivery would probably have made no difference to Rachel’s condition. The Trust had eventually agreed to settle the case on the basis of 80% liability, although the child’s family still hold the hospital entirely responsible for Rachel’s injuries.

The Court heard that Rachel is a “resourceful, determined and courageous” teenager who is doing well at a mainstream school.  The Judge commented “It is clear that Rachel is a remarkable young girl and that is greatly to her credit”.

Speaking of the case, Richard Wood from the CNCI team said “The minutes before delivery of a baby are often critical in terms of the safety of the newborn.  Any small delay in delivery can have significant and a lifelong impact upon the child.  It can sometimes be difficult to identify whether any negligent delay in delivery has caused loss or damage.  It is undoubtedly very sad that a moment’s oversight or a simple error can lead to such devastating damage.  It is a tribute to the Claimant in this case that she remained so resilient and determined”.