Hospital apologises to parents over stillbirth of baby girl

Hospital apologises to parents over stillbirth of baby girl

October 4, 2022

Hospital apologises to devastated mother after admitting a string of catastrophic failings led to her baby girl being stillborn after she was ‘neglected’ for hours during labour

  • Baby girl Harper Harrison was stillborn at Royal Oldham Hospital in May 2020 
  • Her parents Jamie and Amy Harrison said they were neglected for hours by staff
  • Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust has now admitted host of failings
  • Its own response letter concluded that baby Harper could have been born alive 

A hospital has accepted a catalogue of errors led to a baby girl being stillborn after her mother was ‘neglected’ for hours during labour.

Amy Harrison, 30, and her husband Jamie were excited for the arrival of their daughter Harper in May 2020 after a normal pregnancy.

But the couple were devastated when their child was stillborn at The Royal Oldham Hospital in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, has now admitted a host of failings by hospital staff in relation to the care given to Mrs Harrison and her baby.

The trust concluded that had ‘appropriate monitoring been carried out’ the findings would have led to earlier delivery, ‘with Harper being born alive’.

Jamie and Amy Harrison (pictured together) took legal action against  the Royal Oldham Hospital following the stillbirth of their daughter Harper in May 2020, after an entirely normal pregnancy

Northern Care Alliance Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Oldham Hospital, admitted a string of medical failings which contributed towards the child’s death

Failures in NHS maternity units led to avoidable stillbirths which cost £65m in a decade, analysis shows

Catastrophic failures on NHS maternity units that led to avoidable stillbirths have cost almost £65 million in compensation payouts over the past decade.

Data analysis seen exclusively by The Mail on Sunday shows that the NHS has been found guilty of negligence in 758 cases of stillbirth since 2010. This resulted in an average payout of £39,000 per family – a total of almost £30 million – along with a further £34.8 million in legal fees.

About 75 stillbirths every year are due to negligence, according to Tommy’s, a UK charity carrying out research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.

About 75 stillbirths every year are due to negligence, according to Tommy’s, a UK charity carrying out research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth (file photo)

The findings, from an analysis by Lime Solicitors, come six months after the damning report into a string of baby deaths at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

And, just last week, the BBC revealed that half of England’s maternity units are not meeting safety standards set by hospital regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

While the majority of stillbirths are not preventable – common causes include complications with the placenta, lack of oxygen to the baby and mothers suffering high blood pressure – occasionally the outcome is caused by staff negligence.

Robert Rose, head of clinical negligence at Lime Solicitors which specialises in medical negligence claims, says: ‘This includes mothers not being checked appropriately during their pregnancy, a history of diabetes or high blood pressure not being properly monitored, or failing to diagnose and treat an inflection.

‘In all my cases, clients are predominantly seeking to establish the truth, an apology and to ensure healthcare professionals learn from their own tragic experiences to prevent making the same mistakes in the future.’

In January, Bekki Hill, a mother-of-three, reached a settlement with Chesterfield Royal Hospital (pictured) in Derbyshire – six years after her daughter was stillborn

In January, Bekki Hill, a mother-of-three, reached a settlement with Chesterfield Royal Hospital in Derbyshire – six years after her daughter was stillborn.

On several occasions Bekki had told medics she thought her baby, whom she named Willow Grace, was in distress and requested an induction, which was denied.

The hospital says it has made improvements to procedures since Willow Grace’s death.

Bekki says: ‘All I wanted was an explanation and a promise to listen to other women to make sure what happened to Willow Grace doesn’t happen again. In order to get the truth, I had to sue, which should never, ever be the case.’


Mrs Harrison said she was days overdue and left alone in a hospital side room ‘all night’ without being checked by a doctor or midwife after being induced.

Harper’s lack of movements went unnoticed and she died – but she could have been saved, the trust’s own investigation concluded.

Mrs Harrison said she got through the majority of her pregnancy just fine, with the expectation that she would give birth normally with Jamie by her side.

But as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold of the country, circumstances radically changed. By May 2020, when Mrs Harrison was due to welcome her baby, she could no longer be accompanied while giving birth because of NHS hospital social distancing rules.

Mrs Harrison said: ‘I’d got to almost 42 weeks – 41 weeks and five days – and I’d had no signs at all. I was told to ring the hospital and book an induction. I was getting a bit worried that I was way too far overdue.’

The couple lived in Bury at the time but as Mrs Harrison had been born at The Royal Oldham Hospital – along with her sibling and the children of her friends – they decided to choose the facility for their own baby, believing it was safe.

But ‘from the moment’ Mrs Harrison called to book in for her induction, she felt ‘let down’ and ‘left alone’.

Mrs Harrison said: ‘Stillbirth doesn’t even cross your mind. I think as a woman you’re made to feel that going to have a baby is totally normal. It’s actually petrifying when it’s your first baby, and I don’t feel like I had any reassurance.

‘Because of Covid, you just had to be dropped off at the door and go up to the antenatal ward on your own.’

Hours after starting the induction process on May 18, ‘nothing was happening’, Mrs Harrison claimed, until she started with contractions. However, the contractions disappeared once she had been given a painkiller.

The next day, now 41 weeks and six days overdue, Mrs Harrison was getting ‘more and more concerned about reduced movements’ of her baby. She asked for the movements to be monitored, but was told she had only just had checks two hours prior.

Mrs Harrison said: ‘The staff failed to monitor me as they should have done, my contractions were getting more and more intense.

‘I was getting quite emotional because I was on my own and in a lot of pain.. A staff member said they would move me and put me in a room on my own – looking back, I think that was the big turning point.’

Since her nightmare experience, Mrs Harrison has found out through investigations carried out that staff had recorded her medical details incorrectly during her stay on the ward.

Mrs Harrison said: ‘I found out later, they didn’t update my notes properly, it looked like I was a day less overdue.’

The mistake meant she was never moved to a labour ward for progression.

Overnight, she didn’t get much sleep as she was getting contractions ‘every couple of minutes’.

Mrs Harrison said: ‘A midwife hadn’t come in all night. I came out in the night to ask for paracetamol and went back in the room. That was the only interaction I had all night.’

On May 20, there was a change of staff on the ward. When finally visited, Mrs Harrison asked why she was having contractions but less movements from the baby. A consultant asked when she had last been monitored. 

She said: ‘I told the midwife: ‘I’ve been in this room since 11pm last night, no one has been in.’ Her face dropped. I could tell that wasn’t normal.’

‘It took the midwife so long and she was moving the monitor around for ages. A more senior midwife came to check, then a sonographer.. He was the one who told me.’

After two anxious nights and a once healthy baby, the couple were given the heartbreaking news their baby had died.

Mrs Harrison said: ‘I couldn’t go through the process of giving birth to her naturally. I wanted to have a C-section. I was told ‘most women in your situation do this naturally’, I didn’t care what other people did. The whole process was a nightmare.’

The couple, who now live in Norden, Rochdale, were able to spend time with baby Harper and said at that point, staff were ‘amazing’ providing their support – ‘but it doesn’t make the lack of care any better’.

In the months following their harrowing loss, the couple launched a legal case against the hospital for the failings in their care.

An internal hospital probe was launched, along with an investigation by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, explained Amy.

Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust admitted failings including the following:

  • Mrs Harrison should have been transferred to a labour ward
  • Staff inaccurately recorded her medical notes
  • The hospital had reduced staffing during Mrs Harrison’s labour and was under pressure, but did not communicate effectively
  • Staff failed to monitor her and her baby’s wellbeing
  • Multiple physical checks were not carried out when they should have been
  • Failure to adequately ‘monitor Mrs Harrison and the foetal wellbeing’ – including the baby’s heart rate during labour
  • The hospital also found a ‘culture of acceptance of delays’.

In a letter of response, the trust said: ‘But for the alleged negligence, [Mrs Harrison] would have been transferred to the labour ward… ARM [artificial rupture of the membranes to induce labour] and/or continuous monitoring would have taken place. Harper would have been born alive.

The couple were excited to welcome their baby girl after a normal pregnancy

‘On balance of probabilities, had appropriate monitoring of the fetal condition been carried out, CTG abnormalities would have been seen in the period leading up to the fetal demise. This would have led to earlier delivery, with Harper being born alive.’

Amy said: ‘I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. Seeing that letter and hearing the hospital admit they could have saved Harper is horrific to hear, but it helps me in a way because until I started getting some answers, I was constantly questioning if I did something wrong.

‘Since I lost Harper I’ve met a lot of women who still feel that way because they didn’t go through that investigation process..’

Mrs Harrison wants to encourage other parents to feel they can ask questions throughout their pregnancies, particularly if something does not feel right to them.

She said: ‘I never felt I could, especially as a first-time mum. You know your own body so well – if you’re uncomfortable, say something.

‘I would like maternity services to look at the care they are providing and ask: ‘Is this truly a safe environment for mothers and babies?’ because it’s nothing short of life-changing when something goes wrong.. Losing Harper has had an absolutely catastrophic impact on my life and in many ways, I am a shadow of my former self.

‘Sharing her story is also an opportunity to speak about safety in maternity care and raise awareness of the failures that are causing the deaths of too many babies and how these can be addressed.

The couple chose Royal Oldham Hospital as that is where Mrs Harrison and her sibling were born

‘I want people to know about what happened because if it can help to bring about change that can save even one baby, then another family will avoid this horrendous loss.

‘It’s extremely sad that it takes a baby to die for that to happen, rather than it being a given that maternity care will always be safe, but until something changes it will continue to be a lottery as to whether you take a healthy baby home or not.’

Dr Chris Brookes, chief medical officer at the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘We again offer our sincere apologies to Mr and Mrs Harrison for the failures in care they experienced during Harper’s delivery. We also again extend our heartfelt sympathy to them for the devastating loss of their much-loved baby.

‘An extensive programme of work to continually improve our maternity services is well underway and we remain fully committed to this. Learning from past safety failings combined with listening to and acting on the experience of our patients is critical to ensuring our maternity services are entirely person and family-centred.

‘Progress has already been made as part of our Maternity Improvement Plan, this work being centred on improved obstetric training and fetal monitoring, safer staffing levels, and the recruitment and retention of our midwives.’

Mrs Harrison is walking 310,000 steps in October to raise money for baby loss charity Sands. To donate to the fundraiser, visit:

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