Commissioners have ordered an external review of the maternity unit at Homerton University Hospital Trust in the light of ongoing “safety concerns” raised by an anonymous group of midwives.
The review was commissioned by City and Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group to address claims made by the group, who call themselves the “unhappy midwives”.
The group has highlighted a number of serious clinical incidents and what they describe as “the avoidable deaths of mothers and babies in our maternity unit”.
In their most recent statement, circulated to the Care Quality Commission and senior figures including health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the group criticise the way their concerns have been investigated and claim “mothers and babies continue to be placed at risk”.
“The alleged concerns have been a cause of distress amongst those staff implicated”
However, Homerton University Hospital Trust maintains the incidents have been investigated thoroughly and the unit is safe.
In a report to the trust’s board, chief executive Tracey Fletcher described the anonymous group’s campaign, which has included an online petition calling for the resignation of senior maternity staff, as “vindictive”.
Minutes from the trust’s September board meeting show the concerns were investigated by former chief executive Nancy Hallett while a further review by chief nurse Sheila Adam concluded all the cases in question had been “appropriately managed”.
“The alleged concerns have been a cause of distress amongst those staff implicated,” says the document.
“The trust has attempted to engage with the group and responded to their emails but to no avail and they remain anonymous.”
The board report states that a series of reviews of the maternity service – carried out by the CQC, the NHS Litigation Authority and a supervisor of midwives – had “not raised any significant concerns”.
Hackney and City CCG confirmed it had ordered its own review, which started in October last year, and was now awaiting the findings.
“The CCG was contacted by an anonymous person or persons suggesting they are midwives at the Homerton University Hospital Trust claiming concerns about safety issues at the trust,” said a spokesperson for the commissioning group.
“These allegations have been thoroughly investigated in the past by the trust”
“These allegations have been thoroughly investigated in the past by the trust, as well as being part of CQC inspections where no maternity concerns were found.
“However, to assure ourselves City and Hackney CCG commissioned an external review, both of the issues raised and how they had been investigated and [we] currently await the final report.”
The Care Quality Commission recently carried out a routine, in-depth inspection of the hospital trust. A full report is due to be published this month.
As a matter of course, maternity services would be looked at in detail with CQC inspectors speaking to staff and patients. Any recent safety concerns raised with the CQC would also be looked at as part of the inspection visit, the regulator confirmed.