You may have seen that allegations appeared in The Sunday Telegraph about epidural negligence. It seems six NHS Trusts, mostly in the South East of England, withheld epidurals from those in labour. The allegations, in part, place blame on a “cult of natural childbirth.”

It should be said that there are valid reasons for withholding an epidural. For sure, epidural blocks are very effective in helping to relieve pain during labour, which in turn:

  • can help women to relax;
  • make the passage of labour easier.

However, the condition of the person in labour must meet certain criteria. This in order for the procedure to be safely administered without endangering the person in labour or their baby.

As The Guardian rightly points out, an epidural requires administration by an anaesthetist in an obstetric unit. An epidural can also cause a drop in blood pressure in up to 14% of those that take it. So it is important to closely monitor the patient as the anaesthetist. Moreover, their fellow attending medical professionals must be able to respond quickly if:

  • the epidural caused the patient’s blood pressure to drop dangerously low, or;
  • causes another kind of adverse reaction.

Health secretary responds to epidural negligence allegations

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that he will investigate the allegations, saying the following in a statement;

“I want all expectant mothers to be able to make an informed choice that’s right for them. To know this choice will be fully respected and to have the freedom to change their mind … Women being denied pain relief is wrong, and we will be investigating.”

On this point, we agree with Mr Hancock: it must be the patient’s choice to receive pain relief during labour*. Therefore, we welcome this matter’s thorough investigation to find if there is any truth to these allegations.

However, it’s just one of many stories where allegations of negligent childbirth care get national attention. For example, we wrote before about a BBC investigation. It reveals that at least seven preventable new-born deaths had occurred at East Kent NHS Trust maternity units. In addition, numerous media outlets, including The Daily Mail, ran the tragic story earlier this month of Ms. Gabriela Pintilie, who died at The Basildon Hospital last February after losing six litres of blood following a Caesarean section.

Epidural allegations inquest

At the inquest, details show that doctors did not allow Ms Pintilie any blood-clotting drugs and other blood products. This episode of epidural negligence occurs after a “miscommunication” between doctors over the administration of different haemorrhaging protocols during surgery. Finally, we wrote at the start of the year about the independent review that is currently investigating more than 800 cases of alleged poor care by The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

At the heart of this review is investigations into the deaths of at least 42 babies and three mothers. This in addition to 50 cases where babies suffered brain damage.

In short, childbirth and postnatal care of both mother and baby is far too important to get wrong. Especially when considering negligent care at both East Kent and The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital over many years. The administering of epidurals and other forms of pain relief is part of this.

Moreover, NHS guidelines state that women in labour can ask for pain relief at any time. Also, they should be given information and support to choose what is right for them.

Accordingly, we’d contend that pain relief to someone in labour forms part of the delivery team’s duty of care. Especially when:

  • a personal injury might ensue and lead to a medical malpractice case for pain and suffering, or;
  • even spinal cord and nerve damage.

Ultimately, everything that can be done for someone who is giving birth should be done. They are bringing their child into the world, which should be one of the happiest moments in their life. Therefore, maternity units and delivery teams must attempt to make the experience comfortable for both mother and baby.

More about epidural negligence

The Medical Negligence Experts work with specialist legal firms with a lot of experience in handling compensation claims involving birthing. That’s especially true in cases where the standard of care has been negligent.

  • Perhaps due to misuse of an epidural catheter or;
  • where necessary, no use of an epidural catheter.

Indeed, compensation for clinical negligence doesn’t change how negative the experience was. Nevertheless, the solicitors we work have years of experience in helping victims get the maximum amount of compensation you deserve.

Fear that you have been denied pain relief during labour? Have any other concerns about the standard of care you received while giving birth? Need some advice to see if you may have a negligence claim? Contact The Medical Negligence Experts via the online enquiry form on our website or by calling 0161 413 8761.

*But only if it’s safe for them to receive it.