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CQC criticises east London trust over maternity services

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Patients remain at risk of poor care in an NHS trust which has faced serious concerns after the deaths of two pregnant women, according to a report.

An investigation into Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRT) by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) “identifies serious problems and places requirements on the trust to deliver fundamental and wide-ranging improvements”, the CQC said.

Its investigation into the King George and Queen’s Hospital sites, at Ilford and Romford respectively, began in early July.

The CQC said that “despite some signs of improvement in recent months, patients remain at risk of poor care in this trust”.

It added: “While the most immediate concerns were around maternity services, failings were also identified in emergency care and in radiology. Widespread improvement is needed in patient flows, the management of complaints, staff recruitment and governance in order to improve patient experience.”

The chief executive of the trust apologised last month for failings in the standard of care given to two women who died after using its maternity service.

Violet Stephens died in Queen’s Hospital in April, after being admitted with pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition in pregnant women.

Channel 4 News said a report into her death uncovered a “succession of failures” in her care.

The serious untoward incident report found there was a failure to administer a blood transfusion as planned, a delay in making the decision to deliver her baby, and when she was found unresponsive with gasping breath, it took 25 minutes for a cardiac arrest call to be made, the news programme said.

Tebussum Ali, known as Sareena, died with her newborn baby at the hospital in January.

The report into those deaths said hospital staff failed to spot the signs of a ruptured womb and then tried to resuscitate Ms Ali with a disconnected oxygen mask, according to Channel 4 News.

Commenting on the CQC report, Royal College of Midwives deputy general secretary Louise Silverton said it highlighted “deficiencies throughout the whole maternity system”. 

She said: “Where workplace conditions are poor, there are not enough midwives, there is overcrowding and extreme pressure, then is it any wonder that standards of individuals fall. None of us could operate under these kinds of conditions.

“There is however, a point where standards fall  well below acceptable levels and action needs to be taken. This seems to be the case in this trust. We know that action is being taken by NHS London and the trust to remedy the failings – such as leadership, clinical governance and staffing issues -  as outlined in the report - and this is welcome.

“My fear is that situations such as this may happen elsewhere. We need investment in maternity services and in more midwives from this government so that maternity services are able to meet the demands made on them.”

Ms Silverton added: “The area that Queen’s is in is under review with a view to reconfiguring maternity services and the CQC report underlines the RCM’s concerns about the reconfiguration plans. Maternity services at Queen’s are already under enormous pressure as this report shows, needing substantial investment - such as a large midwifery led unit - to enable maternity services in the area to cope with the demands on them now and in the future. The report outlines the need for serious consideration and planning if services are to be changed.”


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