An unannounced inspection in January of the trust's maternity services at William Harvey Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital found multiple instances of unsafe practices and caused the health watchdog to lower its rating of both units from 'requires improvement' to 'inadequate'. The trust was told it must make immediate and urgent improvements to the environment and access to vital equipment in the maternity service.
In particular, the report highlighted that staff were working extremely hard in difficult circumstances to provide compassionate and responsive care, but not enough had been done to ensure they were listened to or fully supported. Staff told inspectors they didn’t feel respected or valued which was impacting the quality of care being delivered.
This recent report follows the independent review of care between 2009-2019 conducted by Dr Bill Kirkup and published in October 2022 that recommended fundamental changes to maternity services after it concluded that 45 babies might have survived with better care. It added that 12 other babies and 23 mothers wouldn't have suffered harm if they'd received good maternity care.
Dr Kirkup reported that the trust had given the appearance of 'covering up the scale and systemic nature' of its problems.
Helen Gittos, who lost her baby Harriet in 2014 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, told BBC news how shocking it was to her to hear that under so much scrutiny and with so much external advice, so much was still not right at the trust.
Helen highlighted that Dr Kirkup's review offered a blue print of recommendations to follow. Where maternity services elsewhere have taken heed of those recommendations, there is some change for the better.
On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Helen summed up the loss and pain the continuing failings inflict on families. She said that she should be getting her nine-year-old ready for school that morning, rather than grieving her death.
We continue to lobby for improved maternity services across the UK.
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