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Mother of stillborn son calls for action following BBC Panorama investigation


A mother, whose child was stillborn, has added her voice to support concerns raised in BBC Panorama about maternity services at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust.

During her pregnancy, Emma Ziff, who was 45 at the time, was refused an elective caesarean section by staff at Gloucestershire Royal hospital on multiple occasions despite raising concerns about her age, that the conception was via IVF and that this would be the first time she gives birth. 

After her initial request was refused, the midwife advised that if Emma had not given birth by 40 weeks, she would have a Consultant review to arrange a c-section. Sadly, this appointment was never booked and the Consultant review therefore never happened. 

Emma and Juliette 1 | Mother of stillborn son calls for action following BBC Panorama investigation
Emma and wife Juliette

Emma attended the birth unit at 40+1 weeks with contractions. As the contractions were irregular, she was sent home on two separate occasions and re-admitted the next day when she was in pain and finding it difficult to cope. Sadly, the midwife was unable to find the baby’s heartbeat and advised Emma that her baby had died. Emma gave birth to her stillborn baby son, Otis, at 40+3 weeks. 

The post-mortem confirmed that his death was caused by a lack of oxygen reaching Emma’s son in the womb. 

Emma, who lived in Gloucester at the time of her pregnancy but has since moved to Spain, said: “I’m choosing to share my story to raise awareness of the issues around midwives and Consultants listening to mums. I want to raise awareness and make sure lessons are learnt so it does not happen to others. Had my wishes been listened to, heard and actioned by a doctor reviewing my care then the outcome would have been very different.”

Claire Stoneman, the Medical Negligence Expert from Enable Law who represented Emma, said “This was a tragically sad case as mum was already 45 years old when she first conceived. Pregnancy as you get older has higher risks in relation to stillbirth and mum realised this which is why she asked to have a C section. All too often I find that mums aren’t listened to in relation to their care and treatment plans. If she had been listened to in this case her baby would be with her now. No amount of money can ever compensate our client for the loss of her son. Hopefully, lessons have also been learnt to ensure this does not happen again so that the litigation process has enabled this positive change.”

In a statement, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are deeply sorry that failings in our care led to these tragic deaths and how devastating this has been for those families.”

“We are determined to learn and change when things go wrong. As a result of our internal and independent investigations we have made significant improvements to our maternity services in the past three years.

“We have a new and expanded maternity leadership team and have increased the number of midwives and doctors into the service to support women and babies, alongside a range of other safety improvements, including an enhanced risk assessment process and extra daily staffing reviews on wards.

“The significant changes made have been driven by our staff, working closely with families and communities, to ensure everyone has a voice so that we provide the best and safest care.”

Meanwhile, Dr Simon Opher, Dursley GP and Labour’s Parliamentary candidate, issued a statement in response to the BBC Panorama programme about Gloucestershire maternity services.

He said: “It was with horror and great sadness that I learned about the maternity and infant deaths highlighted in the BBC Panorama program (Panorama, BBC 29 January). My heart goes out to the bereaved families. From working in maternity and neonatal service I know first hand how utterly devastating these losses must be.

“I also feel for the staff at such times, and I would like to send my support to the midwives and obstetricians affected. They work incredibly hard and with utter dedication in such difficult situations.

“The truth of the matter is that families, mothers, babies and staff have been badly let down. The NHS is on its knees after 14 yeara of mismanagement by this Government. We have a severe shortage of midwives which has been utterly predictable as we simply haven’t trained and retained enough. The staff are now working under intense pressure and although the Government claims to be training more, the reality on the delivery suites and maternity wards is very different. 

“Stroud Maternity post natal beds remain closed because of lack of staff. The delivery suite in Gloucester was regularly closed over the last year because there simply aren’t enough midwives.

“We desperately need change in the NHS. That’s why I’m standing for Parliament. The NHS was the envy of the world in 2010 but this is sadly not the case any more. We can and must rebuild our NHS to avoid more tragic disasters like these.”

In response to the BBC Panorama programme on local maternity services, Roma Walker, Chair of Stroud Hospitals League of Friends said: “As with all maternity units, the impact of the chronic national shortage of midwives has been felt at Stroud Maternity Hospital. Despite this, the team has continued to provide the same superb care and expertise that has helped to ensure the safe delivery and care for thousands of local families over many decades. 

“The facilities at Stroud Maternity have been enhanced over recent years through significant additional funding from Stroud Hospitals League of Friends. The support available has been extended by the League of Friends to include fully funded pre- and post-natal services including singing and yoga (since 2017). More recently, we have also supported a raft of expert-led programmes for new mothers, providing both practical and wellbeing support, in addition to companionship. 

”As a result, Stroud Maternity Hospital now boasts an extensive range of free-of-charge services, delivered in collaboration with maternity staff. This offering has been exceptionally well received by both mothers and midwives. Within Gloucestershire it has been recognised as an exemplar of provision, and one that may well be unique in the whole country for the scope and quality of the additional programmes available to those who choose Stroud for the birth of their baby.”

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