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Injuries to newborn babies in NHS Hospitals

I was saddened to read in the news recently that 18 babies at various hospitals had been given what appears to be a contaminated batch of liquid food. Many of the babies are reported to have been born prematurely and the majority were being cared for in neonatal intensive care units, due to their vulnerable condition.

One of the babies who was treated at London’s Guys and St Thomas Hospital has sadly died. The other 17 babies are being treated for blood poisoning but are said to be responding to antibiotic treatment.

How did this happen?

The babies were all unable to feed themselves and were therefore given liquid feed direct into their blood stream.

Public health England (PHE) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRS) are carrying out a full investigation. However, it seems the babies contracted an infection from the feeds called Bacillus cereus and went on to develop septicaemia.

In a statement issued by Public Health England and MHRS, the two organisations confirmed that investigations with a company have identified an incident that might have caused contamination. The company concerned, ITH Parma are co-operating fully with the investigation. Bacillus cereus is widespread in the environment. It can be found in soil, dust, plants and some food such as re-heated rice. High temperatures or powerful disinfectants are needed to get rid of the spores formed by the bacterium, which can survive for long periods

Paul Cosford, PHE’s director of health protection has said that a possible point when contamination entered the products last week had been identified. An alert has been issued to recall the contaminated product from hospitals.

Could any more babies be affected?

The contaminated batch expired on Monday so should not have been used since then. A total of 162 units were sent out from the contaminated batch to over 20 hospitals.

The symptoms from bacillus cereus develop quickly and usually within 24 hours of eating the contaminated food. As the contaminated batch has now been recalled there should not be any further cases. There may however be further cases reported of babies who were affected by the contaminated batch that was in circulation. Worried families should speak to the doctors.

Treatment of newborn babies in NHS Hospitals

Babies cared for in neonatal units that are unable to feed themselves are extremely weak and often do not have a strong immune system capable of fighting off infection. The babies may have suffered trauma during the pregnancy, oxygen starvation at birth and require 24 hour intensive care to give them the best chance of making a full recovery.

As a clinical negligence solicitor I am instructed in cases involving different types of injuries to newborn babies.  These cases can involve failings in relation to treatment of hypoglycaemia, jaundice and other conditions which can cause serious and life-long injuries to newborns if not treated quickly because of their vulnerability, as also highlighted by the recent problems.  It is positive that a full investigation is being undertaken into this incident and I hope that this will ensure that something similar does not happen again in the future. 

If you have concerns as to treatment provided to your baby and whether they have suffered injury as a result please contact me or one of my colleagues for further advice.

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