Negligence claim as woman told labour pains ‘were stomach cramps’

Dr. John Mann
Dr. John Mann

THE family of a teenager left severely brain damaged when her mother gave birth to her on their bathroom floor are suing a GP who told the mum she wasn’t in labour - and was instead suffering from stomach cramps.

Hannah Parkes, now aged 15, was starved of oxygen when her mother 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 to her home he told her she wasn’t in labour and that she should ‘calm down’.

Hannah’s parents are bringing a claim for clinical negligence on behalf of their daughter against the doctor, head of the Blue Dykes Surgery in Clay Cross. The civil trial is being heard at the High Court, sitting in Sheffield.

Nigel Godsmark QC, for the couple, told the court Hannah’s delivery was ‘not in the best of circumstances’.

“Dr Mann considered whether or not Mrs Parkes was in premature labour,” Mr Godsmark said.

“He decided she was not and he left - he was wrong about that.”

Mandy gave birth to Hannah on the floor in the upstairs bathroom just over half an hour after Dr Mann left.

“There was no expert assistance to get Hannah going,” he said, adding an ambulance was called to take the baby to Chesterfield Royal Infirmary, where she was resuscitated.

“Sadly she’s not been spared the effects of brain injury,” Mr Godsmark said.

“She is severely injured and is cared for by her parents. It’s accepted that had Hannah been taken to hospital on time she would have survived unscathed.”

Mandy, 56, said she began to feel unwell at around dinnertime on February 20.

“I thought it was a tummy bug, with stomach cramps and sharp pains,” she said.

Mandy told her sister, Tammy Cutts, about the pains and she arranged for Dr Mann to come to the house.

Mandy said Dr Mann arrived at 6.10pm, and that he felt her stomach with his hand and used a stethoscope.

“He said ‘You’re not in labour, you’ve got stomach cramps’,” Mandy added. “He said the baby was fine. I was reassured, he said ‘calm down’.”

Mandy said her stomach felt ‘strange, bloated and heavy’ after the doctor left following the 10-minute visit, and that she had a ‘weird feeling’ after going upstairs.

“She was born on the bathroom floor,” said Mandy, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

“I didn’t see Hannah until quarter to 11 that night - we thought she was dead.”

James Rowley QC, for Dr Mann, told Mandy she ‘knew what it was like to have a contraction’ from giving birth to elder son Nathan.

“Dr Mann asked you whether you thought you were having a baby and you told him you didn’t think you were having labour contractions,” he said.

The trial continues.