FIGURES showing the number of babies born with a brain injury at Hampshire hospitals have been changed by the trust after it was criticised for ‘trivialising’ them.

As previously reported, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) said it was undertaking an ‘internal review’ following a rise last year in babies born with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a type of brain injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain before or shortly after birth.

The figures, provided to the Gazette by HHFT, showed a rise in babies born with HIE by five times in 2023 to 2.5 per 1,000 live births, up from 0.5 per 1,000 live births in 2022.

READ MORE: Review by Hampshire hospital trust after increase in babies born with brain injuries 

Andover Advertiser: Martyn PitmanHHFT downplayed the statistic describing it as within the ‘expected range’ set by the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, which is between one and 3.5 per 1,000 live births, despite the association stating that a reduction in neonatal brain injury is a ‘key national objective’.

It described the increase, which saw five times more babies born with HIE last year, as “not statistically significant” and “a very small rise”.

However, the trust has now said the figures it initially provided are wrong and gave new figures showing that the number of babies born at HHFT in 2022 with HIE was 1.47 per 1,000 births, increasing to 1.97 per 1,000 births in 2023.

The number of babies this relates to is seven in 2022 and nine in 2023. It took the trust more than two weeks to inform the Gazette that the figures it had sent were wrong after it was reported in both the Gazette and Hampshire Chronicle, as well as nationally in The Guardian

The changed figures provided by HHFT show that 11 babies were born with HIE at the trust in 2020; 12 in 2021; seven in 2022; and nine in 2023.

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It said it had come up with the new statistics after “reviewing this data more closely” and said the original data “did not encompass all HIE babies across all of our hospital sites”.

Asked for clarification on this, the trust said the initial data related to babies born with HIE at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, in Winchester.

It also said that, following further investigation, the symptoms experienced by one baby did not fit the definition of HIE.

A spokesperson added that the original data, which it gave to the Gazette, was “never intended for external publication” and that “there are a huge range of factors involved when collating and presenting trust-wide data to the public”.

The trust has not issued an apology for the error, but a spokesperson did say it is “unfortunate” that the figures were “extensively reported, potentially causing alarm”, adding: “We hope it provides insight into the rigour applied to data analysis and reassurance around the care taken to investigate every case.”

The Gazette asked whether these figures are published publicly but we were told the data was presented at an internal meeting and is “not published or shared as part of a wider report”.

The trust changed the figures after former HHFT consultant Martyn Pitman criticised it for “trivialising” the increase, and claimed he warned them this would happen. He said the trust was trying to make people believe “there’s nothing to see”.

We put these criticisms to the trust and it then changed the figures. However, a spokesperson for HHFT said it rejects “in the strongest possible terms any suggestion that the figures have been changed in any way following criticism from Mr Pitman”.

Asked why it is conducting a review into HIE cases, a spokesperson for the trust said: “We are always striving to achieve a safe birth for every family”.

Dr Pitman, a former consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at HHFT who was dismissed last year from his job at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, where he had worked for 20 years, said he dedicated his career to reducing the rate of babies born with HIE.

Dr Pitman claimed he was silenced by HHFT after he whistleblew on patient and staff safety in 2019, when staffing at the RHCH fell below the minimum requirement for safe care, after the NHS trusts in Winchester and Basingstoke combined in 2012.

He took the trust to an employment tribunal for sacking him for whistleblowing, but his complaint was dismissed.

Now, Mr Pitman has accused his former employer of trying to convince the public that “there is nothing to see” regarding the rise in babies born with HIE.