Early labour was ‘unlikely’

Dr. John Mann
Dr. John Mann
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A GP who failed to spot that a mother had gone into early labour before she gave birth on her bathroom floor would have been ‘unreasonable’ to admit her to hospital after checking her symptoms, a medical expert told a court.

Hannah Parkes, now aged 15, was starved of oxygen when her mum Mandy Parkes delivered her prematurely without any medical help at her home on Brook Street, Clay Cross, Chesterfield, in February 1996.

Mandy, who was 31 weeks pregnant, had been complaining of sharp stomach pains during the afternoon before the birth - but when her GP Dr John Mann was called out, he told her she wasn’t in labour.

Hannah’s parents are suing Dr Mann, head of the Blue Dykes Surgery in Clay Cross, for clinical negligence on behalf of their daughter, who suffered severe brain damage.

The civil trial is being heard at the High Court, sitting in Sheffield.

Dr Kevin Barraclough, an expert on diagnosis in general practice, told the court the sharp pains wouldn’t ‘fit with most GPs’ understanding’ of early labour contractions.

“I would have concluded that early labour was extremely unlikely,” he said.

“I would have been confident that it was safe and reasonable to await events.”

Dr Barraclough said: “In these circumstances, I think the description of the pains are such that it would be well within the normal range of almost all pregnant women. Many if not all experience episodes of lower abdominal pain - you see them in shopping centres, doubling over and having to compose themselves.”

The doctor said Hannah’s birth was ‘unforseeable’, adding: “If we were going to act at this level of risk, then almost all pregnant women would be admitted to hospital almost routinely.

“That would be an unreasonable thing to do.”

Mandy, 56, previously told the court Dr Mann visited her for 10 minutes, diagnosed her pains as stomach cramps and said the baby was fine.

Hannah was born just over half an hour after the GP left and was rushed to Chesterfield Royal Infirmary where she was resuscitated.

The trial continues.