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Health board apology after newborn dies in west Wales hospital

Chris and Ellen James lost their son Callum shortly after he was born. Credit: Ellen James

A family whose baby died shortly after birth has spoken about their devastation at losing a child and not having their concerns listened to.

A report has detailed how Ellen James, from Haverfordwest, raised multiple concerns during her pregnancy and when in labour at Glangwili hospital in Carmarthen but that these "were dismissed by medical staff".

Hywel Dda health board has apologised.

Mrs James said that ever since the death of her baby, Callum, she and her husband Chris, have been fighting to get answers. She said: "We feel that if we hadn't fought the way we did, we still wouldn't know [what happened]. I've had to go through every painstaking details to find answers."

Mrs James added she was 'heartbroken':

We are devastated. We're heartbroken. For the rest of our lives we have to live with the pain without our son. I always find it's difficult that we can never have a picture of our three children together. Our two children love each other so much and it's heartbreaking to think there should be another one playing with them. We can't kiss Callum goodnight, there's always a space where he is missing.

– Ellen James, Callum's mother
Callum's death was incorrectly registered as a stillbirth Credit: Ellen James

The Wales Public Services Ombudsman upheld Mrs James's complaint that:

  • There had been failures to monitor the Callum’s development during pregnancy and labour and to provide Mrs James with a birthing plan
  • There had been a failure to respond to Mrs James's concerns about unusual pains during labour.
  • Following Callum's birth, there had been a failure to conduct necessary tests. There had been a delay in Callum seeing a paediatrician and receiving treatment
  • There was a failure to conduct a full investigation into the cause of the Callum’s death which resulted in Ellen and her husband being given different reasons for Callum's death.
  • The Health Board failed to adequately respond to Mrs James's complaint about the different explanations she was given
  • Callum's death was incorrectly registered as a “stillbirth”

Responding to the report, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Nick Bennett, said there was a lack of 'ownership and consistency':

I hope the outcome of my office’s investigation brings [Mr and Mrs James] some small comfort. There was a lack of ownership and consistency in care, and a whole host of failings that should not have occurred.

The injustice arising from the decision to record a stillbirth has been significant for [Mr and Mrs James] as they believed that when [Callum] had been passed to them he was alive and had died in their arms.

It is vital the Hywel Dda University Health Board learns the lessons from these mistakes to ensure they do not happen again.

– Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales

Hywel Dda University Health Board’s Chief Executive, Steve Moore, apologised for their 'failings':

We are sorry for the failings in care identified and we have written to [Mrs James] to apologise. We accept the recommendations the Ombudsman has proposed. Our staff have already undertaken many improvements to our service as we continue to strive to improve the care we offer. We have also invited [Mrs James] to meet with us to discuss these changes. The health board has also agreed to pay Mrs James £4,500 in recognition of the distress, delay and uncertainty she experienced as well as change Callum's status from “still born” to “neonatal death.”

– Steve Moore, Chief Executive, Hywel Dda Health Board

Watch our report here: