Health watchdog inspections at QEQM and William Harvey Hospital maternity units raise ‘areas of concern’

Maternity services

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.”

‘Immediate action’

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.

Calls for immediate action following harrowing Kirkup report into baby deaths at East Kent Hospitals


  1. I don’t understand, why are they waiting for a response, people will be giving birth this week, the service isn’t good enough, they should have the powers to send in a team to ensure safety.

    Having been on the children’s ward very recently I would expect if an inspection was carried out there the same dangers and issues would be found. There needs to be emergency measures taken instantly.

    If you were expecting this week and read this it’s only going to make you anxious and that’s never going help and on top of that you know the care isn’t good enough. You’d second guess everything.

    The people using this service and the babies deserve better.

    Act now and discuss later. Don’t wait for a response this has been going on years and there are still major issues

  2. I’m due my first baby in the next two weeks and this absolutely petrified me. I have not had the best experience with the maternity ward up there already. Having to chase every appointment and scan myself and incorrect information such as no blood transfusions on my paperwork.
    With no other options of driving to another hospital I really hope for a safe arrival of my baby

    • Aw First time mum, don’t worry. The very fact that you’ve been able to chase things up yourself suggests that you are already ahead of the game. And ideally have someone with you who can act as your advocate if you just need to concentrate on your labour, someone who will voice any questions or requirements you may have loud and clear on your behalf. I hope you and your little one have a positive experience.

  3. Funny how these NHS Trusts can find the money to pay for useless ‘Diversity Manaagers’ but no money for more important issues in the collapsing NHS.

    Remember Sir Major Tom £££s

  4. Senior management at this Trust are responsible for this not the hardworking midwives, doctors and nurses who are trying to do the best they can while grossly understaffed (this is mainly due to the stress of the job, anti social working hours and the relatively poor pay compared to other professions) Unfortunately I have had a lot of personal experience (non maternity ) at both QEQM and WH hospitals over the last 6 months and it is clear the system is creaking at the seams due to lack of staff, and bed blocking due to inadequate social care provision in the community . These issues will only be solved if the Government allow significantly more trainee nurses and doctors to start each year, and more has to becdone to retain existing staff who are leaving the NHS in droves each year. Finally the social care problem needs to be solved rather than every Government for the last 20 years kicking the can down the road. East Kent Hospitals Trust has had an appalling track record for a long time now and the board need to get a grip now or resign and let others try. Too many words and not enough action.

  5. But the new pair of hands at East Kent Trust assured us the problems were in the past not that long ago-more lip service. Keep on clapping.

  6. Here we go again…the same old,same old. Lessons will be learned, we have taken criticisms on board, patient safety is paramount, yak, yak, yak. Just what the hell is going on at QEQM?

  7. Bring back the good old Matrons. They kept everything ticking over. Get rid of these useless trusts syphoning off all the money to pay themselves huge wages and bonuses along with their managers. The last leader Susan Acott was no good and it seems the new one is just the same. These hospitals are a danger to many patients, fact.

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