A midwife failed to recognise the “obvious stress” of an expectant mother as she gave birth to a child who later died of severe brain damage, a panel has found.
Julie Louise Richards failed to communicate properly with Colleen Tyler as she dealt with agonising pain while giving birth to her son Noah, a Nursing and Midwifery Council panel has found. Instead of noting Mrs Tyler’s distress and reassuring her as she sat on her clenched fists in a birthing pool, Ms Richards merely told her to “stop moving around so much”.
Ms Richards disputed the allegations, claiming she had maintained good communication with Mrs Tyler and her husband Hywel throughout the difficult birth, which left baby Noah severely injured. Ten months later, just days before Christmas, he died as a result of these injuries.
But the panel was not convinced by Ms Richards’ evidence.
The panel’s chairman Richard Davies told Ms Richards: “The panel found the evidence of [Mrs Tyler and her husband] to be both credible and consistent. In contrast, the panel found your evidence to be inconsistent and unreliable.”
Giving their evidence yesterday, Mr and Mrs Tyler told the panel how Ms Richards failed to give Mrs Tyler the epidural she repeatedly requested. Both first-time parents, Mrs Tyler said she was left confused and unsure when she should push and whether she should trust her own body mid-labour.
Mr Davies said: “You told [Mrs Tyler] that she would know when to start pushing as the urge would be overwhelming. It should have been clear to you that [Mrs Tyler] remained confused about this.
“They needed further explanation and did not receive it.”
Ms Richards claimed she felt Mrs Tyler was “more relaxed” when she was in the birthing pool. But the panel found her evidence was not consistent with this assertion.
“You failed to properly read [Mrs Tyler’s] obvious stress and to communicate with her in a way to alleviate this or in a way that might reassure her.
“The birthing pool was part of [Mrs Tyler’s] birthing plan – but she had requested an epidural ASAP.
“No clear reason was given as to why it couldn’t be done.”
Following the panel’s decision yesterday, the hearing moved on to consider whether Ms Richards’ fitness to practice is impaired by the events leading up to Noah’s death as well as charges relating to a further two incidents dating back to 2008.
Mary Coakley, head of midwifery at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, told the panel Ms Richards had made a catalogue of failings in treating Mrs Tyler, including failing to recognise an abnormal increase in baby Noah’s heart rate, known as foetal tachycardia.
She said: “This can be indicative that the baby is not getting enough oxygen. It can be devastating for the foetus.
“In this circumstance, the abnormal heart rate caused the problems for this baby.
“A reasonable and responsible midwife would have ensured that [Mrs Tyler] was referred to an obstetrician.”
The panel heard how Mrs Coakley, when interviewed as part of the health board’s investigation, showed concern Ms Richards had not “shown insight” when considering her mistakes.
When asked while giving evidence what she meant by this statement, she said: “At the time, I did not feel that Julie appreciated the full extent of the care she provided and the errors in her judgement to the appropriate extent that I would expect, especially as we knew the outcome of the baby.”
The week-long hearing continues today.