Leytonstone News

Whipps’ maternity unit ‘good’ but has too few staff to ‘ensure safety’

The maternity unit is “good” overall but some concerns remain
By Victoria Munro

Whipps Cross in Leytonstone
Whipps Cross in Leytonstone

The government’s health watchdog warns there are not enough staff in the maternity unit at Whipps Cross “to provide care and ensure patient safety”.

The Care Quality Commission inspected maternity services at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone, the Royal London Hospital, Barking Birth Centre and the Barkantine Birth Centre.

Of the four services, which are all run by Barts Health NHS Trust, Whipps was rated “good”, the Royal London and Barking Birth Centre were rated “requires improvement” and the Barkantine Birth Centre was rated “inadequate”.

Inspectors highlighted a number of areas where the Whipps maternity service was performing well, including a committment to “continually improving services”, while also raising a number of concerns, including the shortage of staff.

In July, the Echo reported on an inquest into the death of a pregnant teacher at Whipps Cross, which found a staff shortage in the maternity unit forced her to stay on an “inappropriate” ward.

A Barts Health spokesperson said the trust is “actively recruiting, including from overseas” and now has more than 70 new midwives joining across the trust in the next month.

They added: “Despite the national shortage of midwives, we are working to improve our services for pregnant women in line with the CQC recommendations.” 

The maternity unit at Whipps was praised for its management of infection risks, medicines and safety incidents; its interpreting and bereavement services and staff’s understanding of how to protect patients from abuse and focus on patients’ needs.

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However, in addition to the staff shortage, inspectors found some staff had not completed their mandatory training within targets or received an appraisal, patient records were “not always up to date” and the unit did not have seven-day-a-week access to a pharmacist.

The report adds that “staff competence checks were not always made” and that “some staff were unclear about their roles and accountabilities because some policies did not exist, and new processes had not been implemented”.

Nicola Wise, CQC head of hospital inspection, said: “Maternity services across England face significant challenges, but there are steps Barts Health NHS Trust can and must take to ensure all risks to mothers and babies are well managed while they are in its care.

“These challenges include staffing shortages, and Barts Health is affected like many other trusts.

“However, the trust’s leaders must develop strategies to meet patient need despite this. This should include developing a comprehensive understanding of the issues it faces, so it can tailor its response accordingly.  

“The trust must also ensure all its maternity staff receive the right training to deliver safe care and treatment, and that it has the right policies in place to help staff fulfil their roles.

“We saw instances of good practice across the trust – including good engagement with women, the community and other healthcare partners to help shape care to meet people’s needs.

“We also found some staff felt valued and respected, and there were instances of good collaboration in the interest of women and babies.  

“The trust has our findings and it knows where it must improve. We continue to monitor it closely, including through future inspections, and we will not hesitate to take further action if people are at risk of harm.”

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