NHS: ‘Signs of improvement’ at east London maternity service

An east London NHS trust’s maternity service is “showing signs” of improvement, according to an inspection.

NHS London visited Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust in September and has now written a report of its findings.

The inspection was made to check on essential actions from the interim Ockenden report of December 2020, which made system-wide recommendations for action to improve maternity care.

The trust’s maternity service, run out of Queen’s Hospital in Romford, is rated ‘requires improvement’ by health regulator the Care Quality Commission.

But the NHS London report said: “The visit team found a service that is already showing signs of improvement, and staff should be congratulated on their dedication and progress.”

NHS inspectors did have concerns about “culture, risk assessment and governance processes” after a review of uterine deaths.

They also said that ongoing birth centre closures “restrict women’s choices and could potentially lead to safety concerns with increasing rates of ‘born before arrivals’”.

Inspectors said: “The service reports high numbers of women birthing before arrival on its dashboard.

“Staff interviewed told the team they felt this was due to a lack of choice in birth environments.

“This urgently needs addressing, with a particular focus on ensuring safety.”

The trust, which also runs King George Hospital in Goodmayes, was also told to consider separating waiting areas for antenatal and gynaecology patients.

The latter’s service includes patients being treated for early pregnancy issues and miscarriage.

Inspectors said leadership teams “generally demonstrated excellent understanding of the service, including both its challenges and successes and are now entering a period where they need time to stabilise and focus on sustaining improvement work”.

The trust’s chief executive Matthew Trainer described the inspection’s findings as “an encouraging read”.

He said: “Whilst acknowledging what still needs to be done in a department that is experiencing considerable pressure, the inspectors were impressed with the progress that has been made in providing a good safety culture; the commitment of the new senior leadership to deliver change; and the ongoing efforts to listen to those using the service.”

The trust boss said CQC is to inspect the service and the trust’s emergency departments soon, adding: “When I am interviewed by them, it will be an opportunity for me to acknowledge the challenges, highlight our achievements and reinforce the point that delivering many of the required improvements will take time.”


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