Belfast Telegraph

Disgraced midwife remains silent over negligence that resulted in deaths of two babies

By John Porter

A former midwife whose "catastrophic negligence" led to the deaths of two babies has refused to comment on the matter.

Heather McComish, a practising midwife for more than 20 years, was finally struck off almost 10 years on from the newborns' deaths.

In 2005 a baby died from brain damage as a result of McComish failing to correctly read its heart rate and consequently failing to take action over the abnormal readings indicating the child was in distress.

The boy was delivered with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and died on November 9, six days after his birth.

A year later the midwife failed to identify that expectant mother Karen White was in labour despite her numerous complaints of "cramps".

Delays in contacting a consultant and registrar resulted in a failure to ensure urgent admission to the labour ward.

The child, Matthew White, was born on the morning of November 2, 2006 and was immediately transferred to a neonatal unit, where he died five days later.

Medical experts said that had labour been identified and appropriately managed the mother should have delivered a healthy child.

That baby's inquest was adjourned in 2007 to allow for a police investigation, but the Public Prosecution Service decided not to charge McComish.

Once legal proceedings were concluded, Matthew White's inquest resumed last September.

Karen White and her husband Dr David White heard how there were major shortcomings in basic maternity provision.

It was only once the legal proceedings ended that the Nursing & Midwifery Council could act.

Because of health reasons, McComish did not attend the hearing in Belfast, but was represented by Mary Caddell of the Royal College of Midwives.

During the hearing the panel heard how McComish made full admissions and accepted her misconduct.

The panel took into consideration that her actions "did not deliberately or intentionally set out to cause harm to her patients".

She also said she did not wish to practise as a midwife any longer.

Yesterday afternoon, from her Broughshane home, McComish refused to comment on the case.

The Belfast Telegraph asked if she felt remorse or sorrow over her actions and if she wanted to apologise to the families.

McComish said she had been advised not to comment.

The 54-year-old was listed as a director of the RCM between 1998 and 2001.

It's said this meant she was a member of its UK council during that three-year period.

A spokeswoman said it did not comment on its members, but criticised the delays in the case.

She said: "The blame for the delay lies solely on the criminal justice system.

"It was their protracted dealings and the anguish to the parents was and is unacceptable."


Heather McComish became a nurse in July 1982.

The Co Antrim woman moved into midwifery in February 1984 and was working for the Northern Trust at the time of the two newborns' deaths in 2005 and 2006.

The Northern Trust said it was aware of McComish being struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council but was unable to comment on the matter.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph