A London hospital did not always have enough qualified midwifery staff with the skills, training and experience to keep women safe from avoidable harm, a report has found.
The Northwick Park maternity department has been told to improve its services after health inspectors came across dirty and out-of-date equipment.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated the maternity department at Northwick Park Hospital as “requires improvement” following an unannounced inspection in October.
This was an improvement on the previous rating in April 2021, when the department was deemed “inadequate” following a number of “serious incidents” including several baby deaths.
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However, inspectors said there were still issues with cleanliness, organisation and staff training.
The CQC report said: “The service did not always have enough midwifery staff with the right qualifications, skills, training and experience to keep women safe from avoidable harm and to provide the right care and treatment.”
It added low staff levels, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, meant waiting times were longer than normal.
There were also concerns about maternity equipment being dusty, while out of date equipment was found on resuscitation trolleys.
Inspectors said some patient notes were loose, which meant key information could be “misplaced”, and there was a case where drug vials were left out in the open.
They added mandatory staff training records, while showing signs of improvement, fell just short of the local NHS trust target of 85 per cent.
Despite these concerns, inspectors were impressed by the department’s new management team and said it has the skills to turn things around.
The report pointed out staff were “working together as a team to benefit women” while it was easier for patients to give feedback about the care they received.
It added the hospital had recently employed two specialist midwives to monitor patients’ experiences and ensure they are meeting targets.
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Lisa Knight, chief nurse at London North West University Hospitals, said: “We’ve listened to the CQC and it’s encouraging that they have recognised the positive changes in our maternity unit.
“We understand that we have more work to do but I’m pleased that our teams have embraced the challenge. The hard work and dedication of our staff has started to show a real difference.
“We’re paying close attention to the areas where we still need to make changes, and we’re totally committed to continuing with our maternity improvement plan.
“Now we’ll continue to work with our local families and communities to offer them the excellent care they deserve.”