Hospital’s apology to boy left disabled after maternity mistakes

Lucas was starved of oxygen during his birth at North Middlesex University Hospital, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Lucas Whitehouse has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and global development delay
Lucas Whitehouse has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and global development delay

An Enfield couple are calling for lessons to be learned after delays to their son’s birth left him permanently disabled.

Rebecca and Dan Whitehouse have spoken out after their son Lucas was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and global development delay after he was starved of oxygen during his birth at North Middlesex University Hospital.

During an antenatal appointment, Rebecca was initially told her baby was in the breech position, with his feet pointing downwards. But at a later appointment she was told he was in the normal birth position, with his head pointing downwards. Rebecca asked for an ultrasound to confirm the position, but this was not arranged.

After Rebecca’s waters had broken, hospital staff believed Lucas was in the correct position – despite an examination by midwives which should have identified he was in the breech position.

An NHS investigation report said Rebecca should have been admitted to the labour ward and reviewed by the obstetric team. Instead, she spent nearly four hours in the birth centre. She and her husband raised concerns and were eventually transferred to a labour ward after staff performed an investigation and suspected Lucas was being born feet first.

Despite being prepared for a caesarean section after an ultrasound confirmed he was in a footling breech position, a consultant advised that a natural delivery was the safest option. But according to official guidelines, a caesarean should have been carried out within 30 minutes of Rebecca arriving on the labour ward.

Lucas was delivered an hour and 14 minutes after Rebecca arrived on the labour ward. His head was delivered nine minutes after his body, and he was starved of oxygen. Now aged eight, he is non-verbal and communicates using signs and a communication device.

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The couple instructed legal firm Irwin Mitchell to investigate, and after a letter of claim was served on North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust it admitted liability and apologised to the family. The trust agreed a settlement to provide lifetime care and support for Lucas. An investigation carried out by the trust found 38 issues and factors in the family’s care.

Rebecca said finding out that her son’s injuries could have been avoided had been “the hardest thing to accept”. She added: “It’s difficult not to think that when Lucas needed help the most he was badly let down.

“Despite everything he’s been through, we’re so proud of Lucas. He’s an absolute fighter, and we feel so blessed that he’s our son. Each day he amazes us with the courage and determination he shows to not be defined by his condition. His laughter would make anyone smile.

“All we want is for him to have the best life possible. Knowing that the support and care Lucas needs is guaranteed for the rest of his life is a huge relief. We just hope that by speaking out we can help prevent other families having to go through what we have.”

The couple have set up a social media account to tell their son’s story and help other parents facing similar issues.

A North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust spokesperson said: “Our trust apologised to Lucas’s family in 2015, and we reiterate this full apology today. No amount of money will ever compensate Lucas for his injuries. However, the settlement does ensure that Lucas’s care needs can be met. We wish Lucas and his family the very best for the future.

“After Lucas’s birth we conducted an extensive investigation and made significant changes to our maternity services that will reduce the likelihood of another family going through the same experience. We want to reassure our local communities that our maternity teams are committed to providing excellent care, and our service is rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission.”

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