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‘Our 14 hour old baby died after hospital failures

The sight of the empty cot was unbearable.

His tiny newborn outfits lay in the hospital bag, never to be used.

Amid the shock, all Hannah and Tim Taylor-Smith knew was that they should have been holding their baby, Zachary, in their arms.

But every parent-to-be’s worst nightmare had happened: The devastated couple came home without their little boy, who lived for just 14 hours.

“You get ‘empty arms syndrome’,” said Hannah. “Your arms are aching to hold your baby.

“Losing a baby under any circumstances is horrific. But knowing his death could have been prevented… it’s hard to find the words.”

Parents Hannah and Tim Taylor-Smith have been left devastated after their son Zachary Victor died from strep B
Strep B is the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns, and of meningitis in babies under three months of age

Last week, an inquest found that Zac died after “total and complete failures” in his “basic care”.

The coroner concluded that neglect at Royal Derby hospital contributed to his death after he developed breathing problems and passed away in November 2022.

Chesterfield Coroner’s Court heard that Zac was born at 36 weeks after Hannah was induced because of recurrent asthma attacks. He was initially healthy, but deteriorated because he had GBS – the group B Streptococcus bacterium, also known as Strep B.

The common bacteria is usually harmless but can be passed on to babies during labour, sometimes causing fatalities and life-long disabilities in infants.

The hospital trust that runs the hospital admitted that had antibiotics been given to Hannah, and had Zac had treatment earlier, his death could have been avoided. Furthermore, Zachary was not reviewed by the neo-natal team despite his deterioration, which included raised respiratory rate and poor feeding.

Tim and Hannah, from Lichfield in Staffordshire, said: “Zac should have been reviewed by a neonatal doctor at birth and urgently on at least five occasions before he was finally seen when we pressed the crash bell ourselves.

“By then it was too late to save him.”

University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust (UHDB) said it was “deeply sorry” for the failings in Zac’s care.

Maternity services in Derby and Burton-upon-Trent have been rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) last November.

Coroner Susan Evans said she would be writing a prevention of future deaths report.

The trust said that changes have been put into effect to improve care since Zac’s death. These include a new scoring tool to “quickly and consistently identify any deterioration in newborn babies”. Midwives will now attend neonatal handovers, so all relevant staff are aware of any issues.

Garry Marsh, executive chief nurse at the trust, said: “The loss of a baby is devastating and we are sincerely and deeply sorry for the failings in Zachary’s care, which we fully accept.

“We should have provided antibiotics and responded differently to changes in Zachary’s condition and we have been determined to put changes in place.”

No ‘closure’

Strep B bacteria is found in the vagina, rectum and bowel in 20 to 40 per cent of women. NHS guidance states that while it is common in pregnant women, it rarely causes any serious problems.

However, it kills on average one baby a week in the UK, according to Group B Strep Support (GBSS). It is the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns, and of meningitis in babies under three months of age, says the charity, with one baby a week left with a lifelong disability.

Hannah and Tim want to see routine screening during pregnancy for GBS in the UK – as there is in the US, Canada, France, Germany and Spain – despite a test that would cost the NHS just £15.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) considered making changes to the policy following a consultation last year. But screening has not been recommended by the UK National Screening Committee.

Hannah and Tim say their legal fight for justice has made grieving impossible. “I think the fact that we’ve gone through the legal process has really put a halt on both of our abilities to even begin to process Zac’s death,” said Hannah. “We threw ourselves into this from day one, quite literally the night we got home.

“We both feel quite detached like this isn’t our reality. People say the inquest will give you closure, but we will never really have closure. We will just learn to live with it.”

Hannah is now 16-weeks pregnant with a baby girl, and the couple are struggling with anxiety over the birth after what happened to Zac.

“I’m glad we’re not having a boy, because I would have really struggled with that,” said Hannah. “Zac can never be replaced.”

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