Apology from NHS Highland to mum who complained about traumatic birth .

Obstetrics

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Doctor consulting patient.
Doctor consulting patient.

A mum who went through traumatic pain during labour has had one of her complaints against NHS Highland upheld.

The Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) has told NHS Highland to apologise to the woman, and to make sure documentation it keeps is up to date.

The SPSO investigates complaints against public services after the original organisation, in this case NHS Highland, has had an opportunity to investigate the complaint.

In its report into the complaint it said: "Mrs C complained about the care and treatment she received during childbirth from the board [NHS Highland].

"Mrs C's baby was born by low cavity forceps delivery which required her to have her legs in supports. She found the process painful and traumatic and complained that staff failed to explore or act upon her pain.

"She also said that the orthopaedic care she received after the birth was unreasonable and that she was not satisfied with the way the board investigated her complaint. The board said that as a result of her complaint they had learned not to make assumptions when a woman was very vocal during labour, but that she had had anaesthetic to deal with pain. They also apologised for the lack of support she had received and for poor communication."

A spokesman for the SPSO said: "We took independent advice from a midwife and consultants in orthopaedics, and obstetrics and gynaecology.

"We found that it had been reasonable to undertake a forceps delivery as Mrs C had been pushing for an hour without her baby being delivered.

"To assist this, Mrs C's legs had been placed in lithotomy (leg restraints). This was associated with symphysis pubic diastasis [the separation of normally joined pubic bones, as in the dislocation of the bones, without a fracture] in up to 25 per cent of cases and Mrs C suffered this.

"While Mrs C said that she was crying out in pain as a consequence, the clinical records did not support this, therefore, we could not conclude that she was ignored.

"However, we noted that there was no mention of a pudendal block, local anaesthesia commonly used to relieve pain during the delivery of a baby by forceps, in Mrs C's records. On this basis, we considered that the board failed to explore or act upon the causes of Mrs C's pain and upheld this aspect of her complaint.

"We found that Mrs C's orthopaedic care and management after the birth had been reasonable and did not uphold this aspect of her complaint.

"However, the board did not investigate Mrs C's complaint well and she experienced several months delay before receiving the board's response. This was too long and, accordingly, we upheld this aspect of her complaint."

NHS Highland have been told to apologise to Mrs C for the delay in responding to her complaint and for the lack of detail in her clinical records.

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