Seven babies died in just 18 days at Homerton Hospital maternity unit, new figures reveal
18:08 10 March 2016
Seven babies died in just 18 days at Homerton Hospital at the beginning of 2016, “worrying” new figures have revealed.
The new data coincides with an order by information chiefs that Homerton disclose withheld details around the deaths of 12 new mums in the last decade.
Healthcare campaigner Christine Papalabropoulos, who made FOI requests on both topics, asked in October how many mothers who had midwives from Homerton had died between 2006 and 2015.
The hospital revealed 12 women with links to the maternity unit had died, but refused to disclose exactly when.
Medical director Martin Kuper told Ms Papalabropoulo at Hackney Council’s health scrutiny committee meeting in January the decision was based on “the duty of confidentiality which extends after death”.
"There were seven deaths over three weeks in January, which alarms me greatly"
But Ms Papalabropoulos appealed Homerton’s decision to withhold the details and the Information Commissioner, which enforces the Data Protection Act, has ordered them to produce the figures within 35 days.
Homerton Hospital is now deciding whether to comply.
Ms Papalabropoulos’ other FOI request revealed that by January 18 this year the hospital had already recorded seven stillbirths, while in 2015 there were a total of 51 babies stillborn, with nine more dying in their first month.
But these figures remain incomplete too, and only relate to the number of babies who died after admission to the neonatal intensive care unit, and not all neonatal deaths.
"Over half the women who use our maternity service are rated as being high risk either because of age, chronic illnesses and conditions such as diabetes and HIV, or obesity"
Ms Papalabropoulos, who has been campaigning for healthcare rights since her 23-year-old daughter died due to blunders at Basildon Hopsital, called for more transparency.
She told the BBC in 2013 her daughter would have received better care from a vet.
“There were seven deaths over three weeks in January, which alarms me greatly in terms of what the end figure will be at the end of this year, but they have been tactical in the way they responded,” she told the Gazette.
“It is very disturbing for me to read the number of deaths that occurred, having lost my own daughter through medical negligence,
Seven babies were stillborn at Homerton in the first 18 days of 2016
51 babies were stillborn in the whole of 2015 at Homerton
Nine babies died within their first month of life after being born at Homerton in 2015
12 mothers who had been cared for by Homerton midwives died between 2006 and 2015
29 “serious incidents” were recorded at Homerton in 2014, the CQC found last year
“I feel until they are open and transparent about these 12 maternal deaths the public won’t have any confidence that when they go into their maternity unit they will feel safe.”
Stillbirth and neonatal deaths at Homerton exceed the average for England, according to a report published in December by MBRRACE-UK (Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries), a research unit run by Oxford University.
The report gave Homerton a poor “amber” rating in its colour-coded system, with the mortality rate around birth “up to 10 per cent higher than the average” compared with similar hospitals.
A Homerton spokesman said: “Over half the women who use our maternity service are rated as being high risk either because of age, chronic illnesses and conditions such as diabetes and HIV, or obesity – or often several of these risks.
“These are the main risks leading to stillbirths or birth complications.
“We also have high-risk mothers brought to us from other parts of south-east England because of our specialist neonatal intensive care unit, meaning we are dealing with some very sick babies, many of whom are born prematurely.”
Homerton’s chairman, Tim Melville Ross, waded into the discussion last month, downplaying Ms Papalabropoulos’ FOI request as “the latest in a series of allegations and rumours spread about our maternity service”.
But two weeks later the a Care Quality Commission report ruled that the department still required improvement, nine months after a surprise inspection found “safety was not a sufficient priority” there.
A previous CQC inspection had found 29 “serious incidents” took place in 2014 and a “never event” had happened in January 2015 – a medical term for a serious preventable incident.
Last year NHS England was called in to oversee a report into the death of five women at the hospital’s maternity unit in the space of eight months. After the investigation began, another mother died there in January 2015.