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Calls for action at Royal Sussex County Hospital following concerns regarding maternity services, general surgery and neurosurgery

Royal Sussex County Hospital (RSCH) has come under further criticism following the outcome of an inquest into the death of Abigail Fowler Miller. RSCH was already facing calls for action as a result of an ongoing investigation into their general surgery and neurosurgery departments.

Maternity Services

RSCH became the latest NHS hospital in England to see its maternity services criticised after failures in care led to the potentially preventable death of a newborn baby.

In January 2022, Abigail Fowler Miller tragically passed away at RSCH at just two days old. The result of last week’s inquest into her death concluded that an earlier assessment of her mother’s health would have prolonged Abigail’s life to a significant extent.

Katie Fowler, Abigail’s mother, was not invited to attend the hospital’s Maternity Assessment Unit until her fourth phone call on 21 January 2022. Ms Fowler had to take a taxi to the hospital in which she suffered cardiac arrest due to a uterine rupture. Abigail was subsequently delivered by an emergency c-section and both Abigail and her mother required resuscitation. Ms Fowler was subsequently placed into an induced coma and Abigail died two days later due to multiple organ failure which was caused by severe hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy.

The inquest found that, had Ms Fowler been invited to attend the Maternity Assessment Unit sooner, she would have been in hospital when the uterine rupture occurred, and the necessary immediate treatment would have been provided.

In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Abigail’s parents expressed their concern about the standard of care in maternity services across the UK. This follows The Maternity Safety Alliance’s call for a statutory public inquiry into maternity safety in England in October 2023.

You can find BBC News’ article here and the BBC Newsnight episode covering their interview with Abigail’s parents here.

You can also find our article on The Maternity Safety Alliance’s call for a statutory public inquiry here.

General Surgery and Neurosurgery

RSCH is facing calls for certain general surgeons and neurosurgeons to be suspended following an ongoing investigation, known as Operation Bamber, which was launched in June 2023. This investigation, under which surgeons’ cases are being reviewed by Sussex police, involves alleged medical negligence in the treatment of dozens of patients, including a significant percentage who have died.

In light of these calls, University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust is standing firm in its confidence in the surgeons involved despite concerns that these surgeons will still be operating on patients while the investigation is ongoing.

Families of the patients involved are yet to be formally notified by Sussex police and this has caused widespread anxiety among current patients and prospective patients.

You can find The Guardian’s coverage on this matter here.


Our clinical negligence team has a wealth of experience in dealing with a variety of clinical negligence claims, including those mentioned in this article. If you think that you, or a loved one, may have been affected by negligent medical care from Royal Sussex County Hospital or another establishment, please contact Carolyn Lowe, Catherine Bell or another member of our team to discuss how we can help and support you.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
Carolyn Lowe

Author: Carolyn Lowe

Partner & Head of Clinical Negligence for the South

Catherine Bell

Author: Catherine Bell

Director

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