Adam Cheshire was born at Shrewsbury Hospital nearly 35 hours after mum Charlotte’s waters broke. In the hours after his birth Adam struggled to feed, was crying and started grunting, all signs of early-onset Group B Strep (GBS) infection, a type of bacterial infection which can lead to life-threatening conditions such as meningitis if not treated quickly.
Around 14 hours after his birth, Adam was transferred to a neo-natal intensive care unit. The following day he was diagnosed with GBS and meningitis and spent nearly a month in intensive care.
On Monday the High Court approved a liability agreement agreed by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust.
Now aged 11, Adam has brain damage. He has hearing and visually impairments and has been diagnosed with autism, severe learning difficulties and behavioural problems. He is likely to be reliant on others to care for him for the rest of his life and will be unable to work.
Charlotte, 45, of Newport, Shropshire, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the family’s care under Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust. Last year an independent review found more than 200 babies could have survived if they had received better care. Mothers also died or suffered injuries because of failures in care and children were left with life-changing conditions.
Irwin Mitchell is representing a number of families affected by care issues at the trust as well as hundreds of other patients who have suffered maternity care issues under other NHS Trusts across the country.
Following legal submissions, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust has agreed to accept 80 per cent responsibility for Adam’s brain injury and agreed an interim payment.
The next stage of his case involves obtaining evidence to establish the amount of compensation Adam requires to help fund the specialist life-long care and therapy he needs.
The liability agreement and an interim payment of compensation approved by the High Court will be managed by Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Court of Protection team.
Following the liability approval, Adam’s mother, Charlotte, a Church of England priest, has joined her legal team in calling for lessons to be learned to improve maternity safety nationally.
Charlotte said: “My pregnancy with Adam was in many ways textbook but it felt that changed when my waters broke. From that point I just had a mother’s instinct something wasn’t right but I was reassured by the midwives so many times that everything was okay.
“At no point in my pregnancy or in the hours after Adam was born was I told about Group B Strep. I later found out following a review of my records, that early in my pregnancy it was decided that I wouldn’t have a test for GBS because I didn’t have the risk factors associated with it. It was very hard to learn that this had been considered but not discussed with me considering the eventual outcome.
“While Adam is adorable and I’m so thankful to have him in my life, it’s difficult not to think how things could have turned out much differently for him if he’d received the care he should have. Adam will never live an independent life and will need lifelong care. While I’m devoted to him, I’m now raising a severely disabled son, which is extremely challenging and has changed the path of both our lives forever.
“Nothing will ever make up for what he’s gone through but today means we can try and start looking to the future as a family as we have the answers we deserve and the security of knowing Adam’s needs will be taken care of.
“My heart goes out to all the other families who have been affected by maternity issues, not only at Shrewsbury and Telford but elsewhere. There continues to be too many stories of how families are left to pick up the pieces following care failings so it’s vital that families continue to speak out. What’s happened can never be forgotten and improvements in care need to continue to be made, not just at Shrewsbury and Telford but elsewhere."
Sara Burns, the expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing Charlotte, said: “While the maternity failings which were allowed to manifest at Shrewsbury and Telford over many years are well documented, their shocking nature never diminishes.
“Behind each case is a human tragedy of how families have been left devastated by medical errors. Many of these were avoidable and have led to the deaths of babies or incredibly serious birth injuries, which have caused severe disabilities and people and needing a lifetime of specialist care.
“We believe that Adam’s care was typical of many issues families have raised. Serial observations were missed, signs that should have been acted upon weren’t and serious illnesses were diagnosed too late.
“Sadly, what happened at Shrewsbury and Telford doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. We continue to receive many first-hand accounts from families across the UK affected by issues in maternity care.
“As we continue to campaign for improved maternity safety, it’s vital that, where appropriate, all Trusts learn lessons from the issues identified in this case to uphold the highest standards of care.
“Although GBS can make babies very unwell, most will recover with prompt treatment. A simple test can be conducted to highlight whether an expectant mum is a carrier of group B Strep and her care plan can be adjusted to ensure intravenous antibiotics are provided throughout labour to prevent the infection being transmitted.
“Everything possible must be done to prevent this infection in babies.”
A spokesperson for The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust said: “We are very sorry for the failings in the care provided to this family, unfortunately we are unable to comment on ongoing legal cases.”