A single mum falsely accused of being a cocaine addict while heavily pregnant with her ill son says her chances of adopting have been wrecked after a hospital report blunder.
Hannah Clarke was stunned to discover her medical notes claimed she has been a serial drug user who had been known to social services with concerns over cocaine use. But despite Essex County Council and Queen's Hospital both admitting their mistake, the records have not been completely deleted - a situation that the 23-year-old said will wreck any chances she has of adopting a child.
Single mum Hannah, who works at a nursery in Ongar, was rushed into theatre to have an emergency caesarean section after her son Riley ran into difficulties in the womb. Terribly ill, he was transferred to Homerton Hospital for specialist treatment. It was there, still recovering from a traumatic birth, that she was told Riley would need tests for the effects of cocaine addiction, even though Hannah has never taken any drugs in her life.
How did it come about?
Hannah, who is raising Riley as a single mother in a flat in Brentwood, said: "I was pregnant with my son in 2014 and went to hospital a few time because of low moods, but that was not uncommon: they just said it was pre-natal depression. I had no other complications:
"But one night in December the baby just stopped moving. I rang them in a panic but they said 'don't worry the baby slows down at the end of the pregnancy. I thought that was weird. My friend is a midwife and she said I had to get up to the hospital. '
"They put me on one of the machines and said the baby was moving. I kept saying 'the baby is not moving, I can't feel the baby.' When the doctor came down six hours later he went white and told me I needed a C-section straight away. When Riley was born, he was effectively dead for ten minutes - that was very stressful. He then had to be taken to Homerton because they do something there called cooling treatment. He had total organ failure and they thought he wasn't going to make it through the night.
"So Queen's had to send over the medical notes over to Homerton to have them for him there. When I recovered from my C-section I met my son over at Homerton and the doctor asked if they could do a toxicology test. I told them of course they could, but I asked them why would they need to do a drugs test – and that's when they I was a cocaine addict when I was pregnant. They showed me the referral that Queen's had on it – it had my name, year of birth and said I was a cocaine addict through pregnancy and I refused to do a test when the baby was born. I told them that I have never done drugs in my life."
What did the inaccurate hospital report say?
In full this said: An assessment detail from Essex County Council had said they had received a telephone call from the midwife at Queen's to advise that Hannah had delivered a baby at 4.02am on December 16 but that the baby had been born with breathing difficulties.
"He has had some swelling on the brain and has suffered fits – baby will be transferred to Homerton Hospital in London shortly for specialist care. Mother advised referrer that she was known to social care due to concerns with drug use. Referrer states hospital records suggest mother tested positive for cocaine during pregnancy.
"Mother has refused a urine toxicology test since being on the post-natal ward. No immediate concerns and baby will remain in hospital."
'No evidence where it came from'
"I rang Queen's – the matron told me there is no evidence where it has come from. I have never had a drugs test – never mind one that has come back positive. When he was discharged I had to take him to A&E – but all over the documents was that his mother was a drug abuser. I asked for a meeting with Queen's. They kept him in for three or four days because of safeguarding issues – they were going to take him off me. I had social services at the door."
What have the hospital done?
The hospital has since amended her case notes to say she was not a cocaine user, but the initial claim remains. Hannah said:
"I have been appealing it since and I only got the verdict from it this week. They said basically said they don't have the power to tap into NHS records and remove it. So it is always going to be on there that I am a drug abuser."
She added: "They don't know where it came from that I was cocaine addict."But it was very specific – so I was wondering if they had mixed me and another woman up. They have denied that. But the problem is they don't have the power to remove it – although they said they are very sorry, they can't physically remove it."
She is now terrified the case is going to wreck her plans to adopt. The 23-year-old explained: "Because of how my son was born I don't want to get pregnant again because of the chance it might happen again. I was actually going to adopt or foster, but now it is on social services records that I am drugs abuser which doesn't look great.
"It was such an awful birth that I couldn't think of anything worse than being pregnant again but I did want my son to have siblings – that is why I wanted to adopt. I want whatever is incorrect to be swiped off the records – I don't think that is unreasonable. I don't want compensation but I just want it removed."
What have the hospital said?
"We had no evidence of substance misuse and no positive toxicology results for Hannah. The Trust has formally apologised to Hannah for this inaccurate information being included in a referral form and the case notes.
"A copy of this note has been placed in her case notes and copies have been given directly to Hannah to share appropriately."
By Piers Meilyer - the Essex Chronicle, UK/July 15, 2016
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