A Royal Navy sailor’s newborn daughter was left facing a lifetime of severe disability after a delivery room doctor mislaid his bleeper whilst on duty, a judge heard today. Rachel Robinson, now 12, suffered oxygen starvation during the final few traumatic minutes of her mother Margaret’s labour at Portsmouth’s Mary Rose Maternity Unit in May 2001.
She is now looking at a compensation payout worth millions after a High Court judge approved a settlement. The hospital do not accept that the delay caused her condition.
The family’s barrister, Alan Smith, said that all had gone well after Mrs Robison’s arrival at hospital until a midwife spotted telltale signs of fetal heart decelerations.
Mrs Robinson, now 31, was swiftly moved to the delivery room and a call was put out to an obstetric registrar, Mr Smith told London’s High Court.
However, the doctor “had left his bleeper somewhere” and, as critical minutes ticked by, was unaware of the unfolding emergency.
It was “purely by chance” that he eventually arrived at the scene – and he then spent up to another minute “trying to locate” the missing pager, the court heard.
The result, said Mr Smith, was an overall delay of “12 minutes or so” in Rachel’s delivery, for which her father Luke was not present as he serving on board HMS Glasgow.
The baby girl, the court heard, was left suffering from cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs.
Mrs Justice Carr today remarked on “a pretty extraordinary debacle with the bleeper” before approving a settlement of Rachel’s case which guarantees her massive compensation for her injuries.
Mr Smith told the judge that, despite the startling facts of the case, the issues were not straightforward and that it was “always a very tight case on timing”.
Whilst accepting that the registrar should have arrived at Mrs Robinson’s bedside earlier than he did, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust had insisted that an earlier delivery would probably have made no difference to Rachel’s condition.
The Trust had agreed to settle the case on the basis of 80% liability, but Mr Smith told the judge: “Margaret Robinson holds the hospital entirely responsible for Rachel’s injuries.
“She remains entirely at a loss to understand how professionals employed to ensure her daughter’s safe delivery allowed such a catastrophe to occur.”
The court heard that, despite Rachel’s disabilities, she is a “resourceful, determined and courageous” teenager who is doing well at a mainstream school in her native County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
The judge added: “It is clear that Rachel is a remarkable young girl and that is greatly to her credit”.
Mrs Robinson said of her daughter outside court: “She’s a happy girl and enjoying her mainstream school. She’s got a great way; she’s just got so much drive and she always tries to do her best”.
Although the exact amount of Rachel’s compensation has yet to be assessed, the family’s solicitor, Douglas Miller, said that it would “probably be in the millions” and that every penny would be needed to fund the lifetime of care she will need.
Margaret Bowron QC, for the Trust, told the court her clients were “delighted” that a compromise had been reached and would be working hard to achieve final agreement on the amount of damages due to Rachel.