A Sheffield woman whose baby was born stillborn was denied treatment that could have saved her child because she ‘didn’t look her age’, it has been claimed.
Midwives thought 42-year-old Rebecca Clarkson looked younger than 40 and so didn’t follow the necessary steps for older mothers.
As a mother over 40, NHS guidelines say she should have been seen by a consultant and offered an induction close to the due date because of the risk of still birth.
A patients’ group has said ‘basic maths’ skills should be mandatory among midwives after Mrs Clarkson, from Sheffield lost her healthy baby daughter.
The NHS trust running the hospital where she was seen has now admitted if she had been referred, her daughter Ava would probably not have been born stillborn – although they claim they knew her age.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where she was treated, has now ordered midwives to record an expectant mum’s age as well as their date of birth to avoid making the same mathematical mistake again.
But Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said: ‘Asking a patient their date of birth and their age each time is nonsense. They are professionals, they should be able to work that out from the date of birth.
‘It is really concerning that we have people providing care for vulnerable people who cannot do simple arithmetic.
"This should be a basic requirement of every student nurse. It is basic mathematics."
Mrs Clarkson’s midwife did not spot that she had not been given the right care until she was 40 weeks and six days pregnant.
By the time arrangements had been made to induce Mrs Clarkson, of Sheffield, at 41 weeks and one day it was too late and her daughter was stillborn.
A report by the trust found there had been ‘a number of opportunities’ to provide the right care.
They should have realised. I find it disgraceful that they couldn’t work my age out. Because of that, I do not have my daughter now
The report said: ‘It was noted that current written documentation states date of birth only, not age.’
Mrs Clarkson, now 43, said she was later told by one midwife: ‘You didn’t look your age.’
Mrs Clarkson, a merchandiser, said: "It came as a shock that (the midwife) did not realise my age until I was a week overdue.
"They should have realised. I find it disgraceful that they couldn’t work my age out. Because of that, I do not have my daughter now.
"The pain of losing Ava is indescribable and I’m not sure we’ll ever really come to terms with it, especially knowing that things could have been so different had I received the proper care.
"My biggest wish now is that no other mother of my age suffers the same failings and therefore the same terrible loss."
Despite the report’s recommendations, the trust denied midwives had been unable to calculate her age.
Andrea Galimberti, clinical director for obstetrics at the trust, said: ‘Midwives did identify Mrs Clarkson’s correct age based on her date of birth however sadly in this case, a genuine error was made in assigning the correct maternity care pathway despite her age being correctly identified.
"As soon as this error was noticed, immediate action was taken but sadly, Mrs Clarkson’s baby daughter Ava was stillborn.
"No words are ever enough to express the loss and sadness Mrs Clarkson and her family are feeling but we have made a formal apology and a number of changes have also been made to limit the chances of this happening again.’
Mrs Clarkson married husband David in March 2015 and found out she was pregnant a month later.
Their baby was due on Christmas Day that year but was stillborn on January 2 last year.
Mrs Clarkson’s lawyer, Anne Brundell of Irwin Mitchell, said: ‘Rebecca and David’s pain has been compounded by knowing that had Rebecca been referred for consultant-led care in line with hospital and national guidelines, little Ava would likely be alive today.’