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Basildon University Hospital maternity unit rated 'inadequate'


A hospital has been ordered to carry out urgent improvements to its maternity unit after a whistleblower voiced fears about patient safety.

Health and care regulator, The Care Quality Commission (CQC), rated the Basildon University Hospital maternity unit ‘inadequate’ with failings found in six serious cases.

The unit had been criticized before following the deaths of baby Ennis Pecaku in September 2018 and Ms Gabriella Pintilie, 36, in February 2019.

The CQC previously carried out an inspection of the department the month Ms Pintilie died and said the unit, which had once been rated outstanding, required improvement.

Inspectors returned for the surprise "focused" inspection after being contacted by an anonymous whistleblower.

The report found six babies were born in a poor condition and then transferred for cooling therapy, which can be offered for newborn babies with brain injury caused by oxygen shortage during birth.

During their visit, inspectors found: high-risk women giving birth in a low-risk area;    not enough staff with the right skills and experience; "dysfunctional" working between midwives, doctors and consultants, which had an impact on the "increased number of safety incidents reported";   foetal heart monitoring concerns; Women being referred to as room numbers instead of names and a  "lack of response by consultants to emergencies."

The CQC also referred to issues relating to the death of Ms Pintilie, who was not named in the report, and said five serious incidents "identified the same failings of care.”

It said: "This demonstrated there had been a lack of learning from previous incidents and actions put in place were not embedded."

CQC chief inspector of hospitals, professor Ted Baker, said: "We have issued a warning notice requiring the trust to make urgent improvements to ensure mothers and babies are safe."

Chief executive of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, Ms Clare Panniker, said the serious cases were being investigated independently. A total of £1.8m had been invested in staffing and a new clinical director was in post.

Nine midwives and two consultants had already started working and 20 more midwives would join in the autumn.

She also said poor workplace culture in the maternity unit was "unacceptable" and would not be tolerated.

She said: "We've been really focused in the last few months in making the improvements that mean women can be confident to come and have their babies in the maternity department at Basildon and be very safe in the process."

A woman, whose son died shortly after his birth following 22 weeks of pregnancy, has also been critical of the care she received at Basildon.

Lauren Beattie, who said she was in the hospital for three weeks before his birth, added: "Nearly every day I was having doctors come in encouraging me that I needed to terminate the pregnancy, even though there was nothing wrong with him.

"We ended up getting the midwife to write down 'Do not offer advice to terminate any more'. Every time I've had to go up the hospital I've had to explain the whole situation from beginning to end to everyone - there's no communication.

Ms Beattie said that after her most recent miscarriage, when she was pregnant again after her son died, she had four scans but added ”During only one of these did a midwife come in for support which was lovely but, with others, I was all on my own to receive bad news. There are situations where people need support."

Chair of the independent Mid and South Essex Maternity Voices Partnership which gathers feedback from patients, Lynsey McCarthy-Calvert, said the hospital was implementing a new care model where women would be looked after by the same people during pregnancy and labour, which was known to improve "outcomes for safety and wellbeing.”