Health inspectors found maternity ward was ‘unsafe and dirty’

GV of Homerton University Hospital, of Homerton Row.

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

Anonymous whistleblower midwives – who persistently warned about the ‘avoidable’ deaths of mothers and babies at Homerton University Hospital – say they feel vindicated after health inspectors deemed “safety was not a sufficient priority” at the maternity unit.

The results of an unannounced Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection have finally been published three months after they were due, stating there have been unacceptable levels of serious incidents and ‘never events’, with the unit ‘in need of improvement’.

Five mothers-to-be died there in the space of two years, and last year there were 29 serious incidents and a ‘never event’ this January – a medical term for a serious preventable incident.

A vaginal swab left inside a patient was only found by her GP eight days later, and an investigation showed swabs had not been counted before the procedure, just counted afterwards.

Inspectors found that not all serious incidents had even been reported, and that lessons were not being learned from the adverse incidents or necessary improvements being made.

Women and their babies were not always being adequately monitored, and sepsis and post-partum haemmorage levels were higher than the national guidelines, the report said.

Inspectors found emergency equipment wasn’t being maintained and cleanliness did not come up to scratch. Despite inspectors pointing out to staff that a rope hanging in a birthing room was encrusted with blood and bodily fluids, and a radiator was stained with blood, the issues had not been addressed when they returned a week later, they claimed.

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A previous CQC inspection last February gave the unit a clean bill of health.

The hospital has been at the centre of several investigations since the group, which dubbed themselves the Unhappy Midwives, first started raising concerns in 2012, about several unspecified serious incidents at the hospital, claiming women and babies were being exposed to poor standards of care.

But an initial internal investigation found nothing wrong, and The City and Hackney Commissioning Care Group did not identify any failings in the standard of care in its report last summer.

Following the string of maternal deaths, NHS England was called in to assist another internal review, while a fifth mother died at the unit in the meantime.

A spokesman for the Unhappy Midwives said: “They are delighted the CQC finally confirmed their concerns on safety and they feel vindicated, they have been talking about safety from day one. It was always about patient care and how that was affected.”

A spokesman for the Homerton Hospital said the Trust has already taken urgent action to address the safety issues and “significant progress” has been made in the intervening four months.

Trust chief executive, Tracey Fletcher said: “The concerns of the inspectors have been taken extremely seriously and we would welcome the CQC re-visiting the department at any time to update themselves on the actions we have taken.”