“WE ARE haunted by a scenario of ‘what if?’ It could have been catastrophic” – those are the words of a dad who delivered his own baby at home after Basingstoke hospital’s flagship midwife call-out service refused to send help.

William Fugard has spoken to The Gazette after receiving a response from Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) detailing what went wrong on the day his third child, Dorothy, was born at home.

The terrifying incident left 46-year-old Mr Fugard and his 38-year-old wife Bryony traumatised, after he pleaded with the hospital’s Labour Line to send someone to help as his wife was giving birth.

The couple, who live in Brimpton on the Hampshire/Berkshire boarder, received all their antenatal care at Basingstoke hospital, and were persuaded to have a home birth because the couple’s two other children arrived very quickly.

Mr Fugard said: “They assured us we would have two midwives for the labour, gas and air, and an ambulance available if there were any complications. My wife was reluctant to have a home birth at first but a senior midwife at Basingstoke hospital persuaded her that it was a safe procedure.”

But when Mr Fugard called Labour Line at 5.20pm on May 22, he was told that midwives could not be sent because the couple lived outside the catchment area.

The father-of-three explained that they were patients at Basingstoke hospital, but despite his desperate pleas, the call handler refused to send any help.

Mr Fugard said: “When they could hear my wife giving birth and me pleading with them, even then they still wouldn’t send someone out.”

The couple later discovered that a midwife sent to their home, near Tadley, was instructed to return by Labour Line.

Dorothy was born at 6pm, after which the couple faced an agonising 38 minute wait for an ambulance from Reading, not called by Labour Line until five minutes after the birth.

“My wife could have bled to death,” Mr Fugard said. “It was an extremely traumatic experience. They took out of the service the human element.

"All the hospital will accept is that a midwife didn’t put our details in. What I can’t accept is that when I rang Labour Line, staffed by midwives, their response was one of pushing us away whilst listening to the sound of a woman in the final stages of childbirth. They heard all of this and it didn’t spark them into response, and that I find the most shocking – their inability to respond at a time of acute need.”

Labour Line was set up by HHFT in November 2013 in partnership with South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, as the first in the country offering 24-hour midwife call-out with maternity and ambulance teams working together.

Mr Fugard, owner of Gusto Organic Ltd, has questioned whether there is a cost-saving motive behind the service.

He described the trust’s response to his complaint as “woeful”, and believes a thorough investigation has not been carried out, adding: “They chose not to believe a father with expectant wife, they maintained their position that we were not their responsibility after the birth and left us stranded with a baby still umbilically connected.”

Mr Fugard believes the service poses a “significant risk” to expectant mothers, adding: “Labour Line was more concerned with boundary lines than the safety of a mother and baby in significant distress.”

He is planning to respond to Mary Edwards, chief executive of the trust, and said: “It’s an award-winning service that went catastrophically wrong. The behaviour of the Labour Line team has not been analysed. I think the team involved should be disciplined. The life of a new-born baby and a mother were at risk.”

He added: “I felt that we had a moral obligation to find out what went wrong to stop it happening to another person.”

The father praised the midwives at Basingstoke hospital, who he described as “an absolute delight” but added: “We were just let down by Labour Line. Turning a midwife away and washing their hands of us, it’s just barbaric.”

He hopes the trust will review Labour Line, adding: “I would like to see the service improve for the sake of other people in the Basingstoke area.”

Mrs Edwards said she had personally apologised to the couple for the distress, and admitted “on this occasion we didn’t get it right”.

She added: “Our internal investigation found that the incident resulted from human error. In order to minimise the risk of a similar error happening again, we have changed the information available to midwives in the Labour Line office, giving them more detail on the location of individual patients, as well as guidance on escalating concerns.”