Unannounced inspections by the Care Quality Commission at Margate’s QEQM Hospital and William Harvey Hospital maternity units have resulted in ‘areas of concern’ being raised around safety.
The inspections were carried out at the troubled units on January 10-11. The CQC has now written to East Kent Hospitals Trust – which runs both sites -asking for evidence of how people are being protected from risk.
The health watchdog will determine whether to pursue enforcement once a response from the Trust has been received.
‘Ensure people are safe’
Deanna Westwood, CQC’s Director of Operations – South Network, said: “We inspected maternity services at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust on 10 and 11 January 2023 and identified some areas of concern.
“We have written to the trust to request evidence of the steps it is taking to ensure people are safe and protected from risk.
“We will review the trusts response to determine whether the use of our enforcement powers is required. We will report on our full inspection findings and any action we take in due course.”
The Trust says it is taking immediate action to address the concerns.
Sarah Shingler, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer and Deputy Chief Executive, said: “We continue to work hard to improve our maternity services, including our work to listen to and act on feedback from those using our care. Although a number of changes have been made, we know there is a lot more to do.
“While the CQC recognised some of the improvements as a consequence of that work, they also identified some areas of concern following their inspection last week.
“We are taking immediate action to respond to the CQC and address these concerns to ensure we are delivering the high-quality care we and our patients expect.”
Maternity failings report
The inspection comes just three months after the publication of an independent report into maternity failings at QEQM and William Harvey Hospitals which found 45 baby deaths could have been avoided.
NHS England and NHS Improvement commissioned Dr Bill Kirkup to carry out that independent review into the circumstances of the maternity deaths at the East Kent Hospitals Trust sites in response to a concerning number of avoidable baby deaths.
Issues with maternity were brought into the spotlight following the death of baby Harry Richford at Margate’s QEQM Hospital in 2017 after a series of errors.
In 2021 East Kent Hospitals Trust was fined a total of £761,170 – inclusive of costs – for failing to discharge its duty to provide safe care and treatment, resulting in avoidable harm with the death of seven day old Harry Richford and sub standard care of his mum Sarah at QEQM Hospital in 2017.
The hospital trust had previously said Harry’s death was expected, resulting in his parents, Tom and Sarah, having to fight for an inquest and a campaign for justice launched and led by grandfather Derek Richford.
Since Harry’s inquest some 200 families came forward to the Kirkup review over the preventable deaths of their babies. The report from that review highlighted numerous failings and issued a list of recommendations to make maternity units fit for purpose.