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Maternity unit at Northwick Hospital downgraded to 'inadequate'

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Following an unannounced Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection Northwick Park Hospital has been downgraded from “requires improvement” to “inadequate”.

Following an unannounced Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection Northwick Park Hospital has been downgraded from “requires improvement” to “inadequate”. 

In the last three weeks it has been reported that a number of maternity wards have been downgraded to inadequate, with East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust reporting a downgrade last week and Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust reporting a downgrade the week before.

CQC Inspection

The CQC undertook an unannounced visit of the maternity services at Northwick Park on 19 and 20 April 2021 in response to concerns that had been received in relation to the care of mothers and babies in the department.  Particular concerns were raised around a cluster of baby deaths and whistle blower concerns regarding the staff culture.

The CQC first inspected Northwick Park Hospital in June 2018 and found the services to be “inadequate”.  A comprehensive inspection in 2019 led to the CQC up-grading the service to “requires improvement”.  Unfortunately, following the most recent visit, the service has been downgraded again. 

Report Findings

Worryingly, the CQC found that the triage function used when mothers arrive on the ward, was not using the Maternity Early Obstetrics Warnings (MEOWS) scoring in records and was relying on clinical judgment to escalate patients.  MEOWS is there to protect patients and ensure early worrying signs are not missed.  This led to the CQC being concerned that some mothers were not seen in a timely manner.

In keeping with recent accounts of under reporting of incidents in NHS Trusts, the CQC also found the service did not manage patient safety incidents well and were not assured that incidents were always reported in a timely way, nor were they assured that lessons learned were always shared amongst the team and wider service.

The report also found that some women were waiting for more than 72 hours before being induced for labour.  Delaying inducement can increase the risk of infection and complications, putting the safety of both mother and baby at risk.

Amy Greaves, a clinical negligence specialist solicitor in our medical negligence Birmingham team said:

 “This is the fourth reporting of downgrading of a maternity service in three weeks and is a trend that we are seeing in cases we are investigating against other Trusts, particularly failing to assess the maternal risk and delays in inducement.  Failing to learn from previous incidents is something we see across other areas, as well as maternity services, and it appears that the immediate recommendations that were made by Donna Ockenden in her interim report in December 2020, have still not been implemented by all maternity units.”

Sarah Harper, clinical negligence specialist and Legal Director in our Northampton office, together with the Shoosmiths Serious Injury team, continue to support Sarah’s previous client with Campaign for Safer Births, a charity set up to reduce the avoidable deaths of babies and mothers during birth.  The recent CQC reports highlight the continued need for the important work this charity does.

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