Seamus Edney at S J Edney Solicitors is acting for a Miss Maisie Price, the mother of baby Hunter who sadly died on 14 August 2019 aged only three months.
She and her partner are unhappy with treatment Hunter received from Great Western Hospital in Swindon on the 13 and 14 August 2019.
Briefly, on 12 August 2019, Maisie was admitted to hospital via ambulance with a three day history of severe abdominal pain, vomiting, loose stools and high temperature.
Following assessment in the Emergency Department, Maisie was admitted on an Infection Control Pathway to a side room in the Surgical Assessment Unit (SAU) in the late evening for observation with a suspected bacterial infection.
A four day nursing plan is commenced which does not record caring responsibilities or social concerns or breastfeeding. Maisie’s son, Hunter, had been born on 15 May 2019, was therefore 13 weeks old and was being breastfed by her. He had been born tongue tied and could only breastfeed.
On 13 August medical notes identify that Maisie has a three month year old child and is breastfeeding but there is no further recorded conversations in the medical notes on where the child is or who is looking after him.
During the afternoon of the 13 August, Maisie spoke with a member of staff about Hunter and whether he could stay with her on the SAU. It is our position that her request was denied. Further discussions follow regarding the possibility of Hunter staying with Maisie but on a separate ward but this request was also refused.
Maisie’s family visited with Hunter later on 13 August to enable her to breastfeed her son. Maisie did not feel Hunter was his usual self, he was not making eye contact and seemed withdrawn. Maisie asked the staff whether Hunter could be checked. It is our position Maisie was told the nurses would not check Hunter as it was not a Paediatric ward. Maisie was instead reassured that Hunter’s condition may be as a result of being away from home and in a strange place late at night. Maisie felt she had no other choice but to return Hunter to stay with her friend who herself was breastfeeding her own child. Hunter had stayed with her during the previous night.
Later, when Hunter was with her friend, she found him lethargic, floppy, sleepy and quiet.
In the early morning of the 14 August, her friend woke to find Hunter face down and pale and lifeless and called 999. She commenced cardiac pulmonary resuscitation until the paramedic crew arrived.
Hunter was admitted to the Emergency department but showed no signs of life and was in cardiac arrest. Maisie arrived in the Emergency department to find that Hunter was being resuscitated. Sadly he died.
Following Hunter’s death, the hospital commenced their own investigation and commissioned a report from an independent body into what happened and this report has made a number of recommendations to try and prevent a recurrence of what happened to Hunter. Importantly, they have now introduced a Breastfeeding Policy.
A formal Letter of Claim has been submitted to Great Western Hospital by S J Edney Solicitors on behalf of Maisie to the hospital. In summary, it is our case:-
- Hunter was a three month old fully breastfed infant separated from his mother when she became unwell with a suspected bacterial infection.
- There was no consideration that his mother’s infection may pose risks to his health. On his mother’s admission, he should have been examined by the on-call Paediatrician.
- There was inadequate consideration on the part of the medical staff at the hospital as to the health risks to Hunter by being separated from his mother.
- When Hunter became symptomatic during the evening of 13 August 2019, he should have been sent to the Emergency department for a further Paediatric review where it is our case, he would have been screened for infection, treated with antibiotics (if appropriate) and then carefully monitored on a specialist paediatric ward.
- Although the cause of Hunter’s death is uncertain, on the balance of probabilities, the fact that he would have been monitored may have avoided his death as any physiological deterioration would have been detected and acted upon straightaway.
This is an incredibly sad and tragic case involving the death of a very young baby, which arguably could have been avoided. Separating a fully breastfed infant from their mother at such a young age is not a simple matter. Many breastfed babies will not take bottled milk and often will not settle with other adults. Separating an infant and mother should only occur if the mother is incapable of looking after her baby and/or there is a risk she has infection which may be transmitted to the baby.
National guidance from NICE on breastfeeding support exists but seems to be mainly directed towards the first eight weeks of age. However, there are statements on breastfeeding support on the Royal College of Paediatric and various child health websites which dictate that senior doctors and nurses should be involved in the decision to separate an infant from their mother. Common sense also dictates this should happen.
Although there is no national protocol for older babies, we have found some individual hospitals do have their own protocols. We are pleased to note Great Western Hospital have now introduced their own protocol following Hunter’s death which illustrates the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and infants and the need for support to keep them together on their admission to hospital.
There are many health risks to a baby in separation from their mother at this age. Many babies are unable to feed from a bottle as the mechanism of sucking from a bottle is different to when breastfeeding and suddenly stopping a breastfeeding baby from feeding from his mother would be a very traumatic event for both of them.
It appears no thought or consideration of the risks posed to Hunter was given when he was sent away from his mother with a friend. Paediatricians were not called for advice. There was no consideration about the infection risks or the general health risks to Hunter. Babies of only three months of age are very vulnerable and again this was not considered when it should have been. It is almost as if Hunter did not exist and had no human rights.
Maisie has been a true hero in all this. Losing a child is very much a parent’s worst nightmare. In our view, she has not only been let down by the hospital but also by the Police in that they failed to carry out a full investigation into what happened to Hunter following his death. She is trying to ensure this type of incident never occurs again and we would ask you to support her petition “STOP SEPARATING NEWBORN BABIES FROM THEIR MOTHERS!!!”