Home » Protecting Newborns: Navigating Healthcare for Your Baby and Understanding the Risks of Medical Negligence

Protecting Newborns: Navigating Healthcare for Your Baby and Understanding the Risks of Medical Negligence

Welcoming a newborn into the family is an extraordinary experience filled with joy and hope – but also a fair share of anxiety. Ensuring the health and wellbeing of your baby becomes the foremost priority for every parent. The NHS offers access to comprehensive medical care for newborns. However, knowing how best to approach the healthcare system and its available services can be confusing  for new parents.

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Furthermore, if poor care is provided by those services, it can sometimes lead to instances of medical negligence – substandard care provided by healthcare professionals, leading to harm or injury. In the context of neonatal care, being aware of some of the issues involved, and knowing what to expect, can help you to obtain the best possible care for your newborn.

This blog post is a guide for parents, helping you to navigate the healthcare system, understand the vital signs of healthy development, and be aware of the unfortunate risk of medical negligence.

Understanding Healthcare for Your Newborn

At birth, your baby’s wellbeing will be checked, known as the Apgar score, which assesses the baby’s colour, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone and breathing. Various additional checks will be undertaken prior to you and our baby going home. 

Following discharge from hospital, your baby will be scheduled for routine checks and immunisations, which are necessary for preventing diseases and ensuring healthy development. These checks also provide an opportunity for you to discuss any concerns and receive guidance on issues like feeding, sleeping, and your baby’s growth. You should also register your baby with a GP shortly after birth to ensure they are integrated into the NHS system and receive all necessary health checks and vaccinations.

Regular check-ups monitor your baby’s growth and development. These appointments are not just for when your baby is unwell; they are also about prevention and education. During these visits, healthcare providers track critical developmental milestones in growth, behaviour and skills. You will also have opportunities to ask questions and voice any concerns you might have.

In conjunction with arranging healthcare appointments and seeing professionals, creating a healthy environment at home is just as important as choosing the right healthcare professionals. Ensuring that your home is safe and conducive to your baby’s growth involves several steps:

Sleep safety: ensure your baby sleeps on their back, in their cot, which should be free of toys, pillows and loose bedding.

Feeding and nutrition: whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed, make sure you receive proper guidance on technique and schedules.

Hygiene: maintain a clean environment, regularly wash your hands, and sterilise feeding equipment to prevent infections.

Monitoring tools: equip your home with a reliable thermometer, baby monitor, and other health monitoring tools to keep a close eye on your baby’s health.

By taking these steps, you are laying a strong foundation for your baby’s health and wellbeing.

Recognising Medical Negligence

Medical negligence, also referred to as clinical negligence, describes the actions or inaction of healthcare professionals that lead their care to fall below the accepted standard, causing harm or injury to the patient. In the context of neonatal care, this could mean incorrect or delayed diagnosis, mistakes in medication or treatment. 

Not all medical complications or unsatisfactory outcomes are due to negligence. Medicine is a complex field, and some risks are unavoidable. However, when the standard of care deviates from what is widely accepted as normal and causes harm, it may constitute medical negligence.

Medical negligence may have occurred if you become aware of any of the issues below:

Delayed diagnosis or treatment: if there are unnecessary delays in your baby’s diagnosis or treatment, leading to a worsening of their condition, this could be a sign of negligence.

Inadequate information or consent: healthcare providers should always explain treatments, risks and alternatives. Failure to do so may be considered negligent.

Deterioration after treatment: if your baby’s condition unexpectedly worsens after treatment, it may be a sign that the care provided was not appropriate.

Parents must trust their instincts. If something feels wrong, do not hesitate to seek a second opinion or escalate your concerns.

While it is not always possible to prevent medical negligence, following the steps below can help parents to deal with this situation should it sadly arise.

Be informed: understand your baby’s health needs and the expected standard of care.

Communicate clearly and regularly: maintain open lines of communication with your healthcare providers. Do not be afraid to ask questions or express concerns.

Keep detailed records: maintain your own records of your baby’s health, treatments, and any communication with healthcare professionals.

Know your rights: familiarise yourself with the rights of patients within the NHS and the standards of care you should expect.

Understanding and recognising medical negligence can empower you to push for an appropriate standard of care for your child, by helping you to advocate for  their health and wellbeing.

Steps to Take if You Suspect Medical Negligence

If you suspect that your baby has been subjected to medical negligence, the first thing you should do is seek medical support and advice. If you are concerned about the quality of care of the professionals whose action or inaction led to the issue, you should request that their care is moved to an alternative community midwife or doctor.

You should document your concerns meticulously. This includes:

Medical records: request and keep a copy of all your baby’s medical records, including notes from every appointment, treatment details, and prescribed medication.

Personal diary: keep a detailed diary of your baby’s symptoms, your interactions with healthcare providers, and any significant changes in your baby’s condition.

Communication: record dates and summaries of conversations with healthcare providers, especially when you raise concerns or are provided with information about your baby’s care.

With everything else going on, it can be difficult to do this. However, it is a vital step to take if you need to take legal action to secure funds further down the line. It is advisable to seek professional advice if you find yourself in this situation. You should start by consulting a solicitor who specialises in neonatal medical negligence. Many solicitors offer a free initial consultation to understand the merits of your case.

Familiarise yourself with the process of making a medical negligence claim. Your solicitor can guide you on the steps involved, the documentation required, and the timelines. You should also enquire about the possibility of a no win, no fee arrangement if you are concerned about the costs associated with pursuing a legal case or the availability of Legal Aid. With this, you will be at no financial risk.

While the prospect of medical negligence is a challenging subject, being informed, vigilant and proactive can significantly mitigate the risks and ensure that your newborn receives the best possible care. Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources and support systems available to guide and support you through this journey.

How did I do?

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