CQC plans more unannounced inspections after ‘learning lessons’ from Homerton Hospital

CQC chief inspector Prof Sir Mike Richards. Pic by John Stillwell/PA

CQC chief inspector Prof Sir Mike Richards. Pic by John Stillwell/PA - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Health inspectors will carry out more unannounced inspections in future, after “learning lessons” from Homerton Hospital’s maternity unit which was given a clean bill of health just one year before it was branded “unsafe”.

GV of Homerton University Hospital, of Homerton Row.

GV of Homerton University Hospital, of Homerton Row. - Credit: Archant

Inspectors “had no concerns” about the maternity unit at the hospital in Homerton Row which they rated as “good” following an announced inspection in February 2014.

“That was despite the fact that we had had some whistleblowers raising concerns before that but during the inspection we were content with what we found,” Professor Sir Mike Richards told the Care Quality Commission public board meeting on Wednesday.

But one year later when they returned for an unannounced inspection, following a spate of five maternal deaths in the space of a year, they found “very considerable concerns, particularly around safety”.

“Incidents weren’t being investigated in a timely way, the unit was dirty, the fridge temperatures weren’t right, very worrying the massive obstetrics haemorrhage trolley had not been checked, it was a very different picture,” said Sir Mike, who at that point asked his deputy Edward Baker to investigate “why did he genuinely think there was a difference”.

“Did he think things had got worse or had we missed things the first time around,” said Sir Mike.

“In essence it’s probably a combination of factors,” he added.

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“There certainly were real changes in that we found it was very dirty on the occasion we visited unannounced - but that could be because it was an unannounced inspection and not an announced inspection.

“This will certainly help to inform how we go about inspections in the next phase and there will be more unannounced inspections.

“This is a good example of us as an organisation learning from past experience.”

Last month a CQC report ruled Homerton’s maternity department still required improvement, nine months after the surprise inspection which 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.