COUNTY NEWS: Heartbroken parents '˜devastated' as baby's death found to be avoidable

A heartbroken Sussex mum has criticised hospital staff after an inquest found the death of her day-old baby boy last year could have been avoided.

Friday, 19th January 2018, 6:14 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 6:34 am
Chichester couple Jo Meeke and Matt Gurney lost their baby son, Puck, in March 2017, just hours after his birth. SUS-180117-110856001

Speaking after the inquest in Crawley today (January 19) Jo Meeke, 39, of Bosham, West Sussex, said her and Puck’s father Matt Gurney remain ‘devastated’ by what happened.

Jo had planned to give birth to Puck Meeke-Gurney at home but after experiencing severe pain on March 15 last she was admitted to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.

Speaking at Puck’s inquest in Crawley, assistant coroner Bridget Dolan QC said Puck died from natural causes but that if doctors had decided to deliver him sooner he might have survived.

Jo Meeke and Matt Gurney speaking after the inquest

Jo said outside Crawley Coroner’s Court: “We feel we were never kept fully informed of the progression of my labour.

“Had we been advised fully about the seriousness and potentially catastrophic risks of the situation and been offered the choice of an immediate C-section, we would have taken that option with open arms.

“If that had happened, the Coroner has found that Puck’s life would not have been lost.

“Instead, Puck’s life was over before it had really begun.

The inquest took place at Crawley Coroner's Court

“We remain devastated at the events in St Richard’s hospital and cannot begin to describe the pain of leaving hospital empty armed after carrying a perfectly health baby full term.”

Earlier in the inquest registrar Dr Ibrahim Elshazly said doctors feared a potential placental abruption – in which the placenta separates from the uterus – and a decision was made at 5pm to monitor Jo for an hour. Jo had arrived at hospital 10.30am.

He reasoned that had her condition improved, a natural birth was still possible, but if not, a caesarean section would have been required.

But Jo’s situation deteriorated and a decision to carry out a caesarean section was made at 6.15pm, the inquest heard.

Baby Puck was delivered thirty minutes later at St Richard’s and transferred to Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton’s neo-natal Unit, where he died the next day.

Mrs Dolan said: “Puck’s death resulted from the placental abruption which is a natural occuring condition that can happen in pregnancy.

“I cannot accept that this was not a death from natural causes.”

However she told the inquest this does not mean Puck’s death was not preventable, merely that the placental abruption is a naturally occurring condition.

She said that the parents had not been fully informed of the risks of continuing with a natural birth.

“Neither were told that continuing ran a small but material risk of deterioration and possibly death.”

She referred to evidence given earlier in the inquest by Patrick Forbes, a consultant obstetrician acting as a coroner’s expert, who said that had Puck been delivered before 6.15 he would have lived.

However she said that doctors had operated within NHS guidelines.

She returned the conclusion that Puck died from a hypoxic brain injury as a result of a placental abruption.

In her closing words Mrs Jones praised Puck’s parents Jo and Matt: “It is not easy to listen to three days as a parent to the dreadful events that you both went through,

“I am very sorry to hear what has happened and I hope now that things can become easier for you.”

Dr Tim Taylor, medical director at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to Puck’s parents Joanna and Matt Meeke-Gurney and apologise once more that the care we provided fell short of the usual high standards of our maternity service.

“The trust fully investigated this tragic death and has taken action to try and make sure this could never happen again.

“The coroner concluded baby Puck died from natural causes but made findings about the communication with the parents and how the potential risks of continuing in labour and the option of having a caesarean birth were discussed.

“The trust fully recognises that all patients need to have enough information to be able to make an informed decision about their treatment and we are committed to continuing to improve the way in which we do that.”