Elleanor Bennett parents condemn Furness hospital 'cover-up'

Elleanor Bennett died the day after she was born at Furness General Hospital in February 2004.

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A couple have criticised health bosses for a "cover-up" of failings surrounding the death of their baby at a Cumbrian hospital.

Elleanor Bennett died the day after she was born at Furness General Hospital, in Barrow, in February 2004.

An inquest heard staff failed to properly monitor the baby's heart rate before she was delivered.

Her parents Lesley and Gary said the fact they were not told about mistakes was "unforgiveable."

South Cumbria Coroner Ian Smith gave a narrative verdict, saying Elleanor died "as a consequence of complications during the birthing process".

'One of those things'

Her death certificate stated she died of natural causes but no post-mortem examination took place and the coroner was not informed.

The family said they were later told by a consultant that their daughter's death was "just one of those things" and no lessons needed to be learned.

But last March her death was referred to the coroner in the wake of a police investigation into a number of baby and mother deaths at the hospital's maternity unit.

Furness General Hospital Police investigated several baby and mother deaths at Furness General

The inquest at Barrow Town Hall heard Elleanor's heartbeat was not monitored by her midwife for 43 minutes before she was delivered and she then needed to be artificially resuscitated.

She suffered continuous fits and was transferred to Liverpool Women's Hospital but died in her father's arms the next day.

National guidelines say foetal heart rates should be checked at least every five minutes. After unsuccessful attempts to pick up a heart rate by midwives, the problem was then compounded as the doctor on duty was not called in to assist.

Mr Smith said it was "most likely" Elleanor was starved of oxygen and suffered brain damage during the 43-minute period she went unchecked.

Parents not told

The hearing was told an internal review was carried out by the health trust in 2004 and criticised the actions of midwife Marie Ratcliffe, but the Bennetts were unaware of the investigation.

Mr Smith said Elleanor's death should have been referred to the coroner by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust.

He added: "The consequence of all of that is we are all here today nearly 10 years later carrying out an investigation that should have happened eight or so years ago."

After the hearing, the Bennetts, from Dalton-in-Furness, said: "In October 2011, the police came to our door to tell us that they were investigating a number of deaths at Furness General Hospital and that Elleanor's was one of those cases.

"Since then, we have found out so much that was never revealed to us and this has totally devastated our entire family. We have had to restart the grieving process all over again.

"We understand that nobody meant for this to happen, but to lie, cover up the mistakes and fail to learn from them is unforgiveable."

Cumbria Police have said it was currently only investigating the death of Joshua Titcombe after deciding that other deaths at Furness General would not be subject to criminal prosecutions.

A statement from the trust said: "We acknowledge that full information wasn't shared with the family at the time of Elleanor's death and we apologise for this.

"We have now improved our systems to ensure that in similar circumstances, information is shared with the family concerned as soon as possible.

"We have accepted that some of the care provided to Mrs Bennett in 2004 during the course of her labour and delivery was inappropriate and that steps should have been taken to deliver Elleanor sooner."

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