Concerns over Ladywell Maternity Unit at North Devon District Hospital

5 Min Read

Pregnant Belly


*Update December 2020*

This week (17th Dec) a North Devon mum gave a heart-breaking account to an Inquest being held in Exeter regarding the tragic death of her son at the Ladywell Maternity Unit at North Devon District Hospital on 26 June 2017. The mum described how she was told, during the final stages of delivery, that they thought her son was breech, despite having earlier assured her that this was not the case and that her son’s head was down. The North Devon mum vividly recalled the sense of panic and the midwife pressing the emergency button and a team of doctors arriving. The North Devon mum told the Inquest that she was given 2 options for delivery, a natural birth or an emergency c-section. However, before she could respond, the midwife had placed her legs in stirrups. The mum explained that she was not told of the risks and had the risks been explained she would have had a c-section, even if it risked her own life. Tragically, on birth her son was immediately taken from her and she was told a few minutes later that he had died. As you can see from article below, the Ladywell Maternity unit has been under review related to concerns about the quality of maternity care.

*Updated March 2020* The BBC is reporting today that they have been granted access to a review of the services at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT) which raised serious concerns about the quality of maternity care being provided at North Devon District Hospital’s Ladywell unit.

The Trust have assured patients that they have implemented all recommended reforms and their services are now “completely different”, but there may be mothers and children who are entitled to make a claim for the treatment they received. If you have questions about the treatment received by you, or a family member, please contact us.

*Updated February 2020* We’ve been instructed by a client who has received a Serious Incident report from Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust which indicates there may have been breaches of care during the birth of their child. We believe other patients who have made enquiries with the Trust during the last two years may also now receive reports. If you would like to speak to one of our team about a letter you have received from the Trust, please contact us.

It has recently been reported that an independent review has been undertaken at North Devon District Hospital following several ‘incidents’ reported at the maternity unit. This report confirmed that staff at the Ladywell maternity unit had been suspended following a series of incidents – including the death of a baby

Enable Law’s specialist team have been working closely with local and national agencies to bring some of these problems to light. Through our experience of medical group actions (such as the cases against the obstetrician and gynaecologist Rob Jones in Cornwall) we are already working to engineer change, and to represent those affected.

We have investigated over 20 cases on behalf of patients of North Devon District Hospital

Over the last 3 years we have investigated over 20 cases on behalf of patients who  had concerns about their treatment at North Devon District Hospital, many involving maternity care and some where, tragically, the babies have died or suffered significant injury.

North Devon District Hospital has confirmed that “changes to working patterns for consultants” have been introduced as a result of investigations into “recent incidents” at the Ladywell maternity unit.

Although no members of staff at the unit are currently suspended, the report confirmed their understanding that there have been recent suspensions in connection with these incidents – though the hospital could not confirm how many people were previously suspended.

The Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust alerted NHS Improvement – the group responsible for overseeing Trusts – as a result of the “recent incidents” earlier this year.

A recent article reported that they had received a copy of an anonymous letter which included what appeared to be an internal memo circulated to staff at the NDDH maternity unit.

The memo quoted in the article was dated October 6, 2017, and purported to be sent by George Thomson, the hospital’s medical director and consultant endocrinologist.

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust inspected by RCOG and the CQC

It confirms that the Trust has been visited by the Royal College of Obstetrics and the CQC who both raised concerns regarding maternity services at North Devon District Hospital. The Hospital has confirmed that they were “investigating some recent incidents in line with our robust processes to establish whether the incidents were avoidable and whether there is anything we can learn from them”.

At its last CQC inspection in November 2015, NDDH was rated as “requires improvement”.

Enable Law are encouraged to see that the Royal College are conducting this investigation and that the CQC are aware of the situation. It is important that lessons are learned from previous experiences, such as the Rob Jones cases in Cornwall, and ensure that there is openness and transparency so that patients can be reassured going forward.

The people of North Devon need to be reassured that steps are being taken to ensure that the unit is fully resourced and is able to provide a safe standard of maternity care.

Enable Law have investigated the circumstances of many birth injuries

We have many years of experience investigating the circumstances arising out of the tragic loss of a baby and devastating injuries that can be caused to a baby during delivery. Dealing with such tragedies is incredibly difficult, but it is not a burden you have to bear alone. As recognised national experts in group action litigation, we know how to fight your corner.

If you have concerns please contact Claire Stoneman or Dan Isaac, or call us on 0800 044 8488.

For more information on our work with stillbirth and neonatal deaths please click here.Discover our maternity negligence services