Clinical Negligence & Catastrophic Injury Solicitors
Basildon Hospital issued with "urgent" safety deadline.
An NHS hospital where a woman bled to death in childbirth has been given an "urgent" deadline to keep patients at its maternity unit safe.
Health and care watchdog, Care Quality Commission (CQC) found unsafe staffing levels at the unit at Basildon Hospital throughout August this year.
The CQC said the trust had been given an urgent deadline to implement appropriate measures.
The seven-page document, sent by the CQC in October, placed Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust on notice that it has to "implement an effective governance system" among other urgent measures.
The consequences for missing the tight deadline were not stated, but the CQC said it was using its powers under the Health and Social Care Act to impose conditions on the trust's registration. The Act does allow the CQC to temporarily close health services.
CQC inspectors first returned on 18 September and found the trust had still not dealt with serious failings it had been warned about in August, following a visit prompted by a whistleblower.
A CQC letter, which highlighted that it did not accept that some of the problems had been addressed, despite assurances from the trust that they had been, said: "we were not assured that you effectively reviewed staffing and escalated appropriately to maintain safe staffing in the maternity unit.”
Findings from the latest inspection included that only four shifts throughout August had safe staffing levels; safety meetings required during shift handovers did not take place and, even though the CQC was told 20 midwives had been recruited, subsequent documents submitted by the trust did not support this.
In addition, incidents affecting patient safety were inappropriately categorised, including one in which a woman who lost more than a litre of blood was graded "no harm"; babies transferred to intensive care were graded as "low" or "no harm" and there was inconsistent staff guidance on identifying the risk of post-partum haemorrhage.
In a statement, the CQC said it was now taking "action to protect the welfare of people using the service.”
Chief executive for Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, Clare Panniker, said it had "taken action following the CQC's initial feedback to make our services better. We have a robust improvement plan in place, and continue to work closely with the CQC and our regulators as we make the necessary changes and are committed to improving the quality of maternity care."
A CQC visit in June found failings in six serious cases and rated the maternity unit inadequate. Its August report said lessons had still not been learnt following the death of Gabriela Pintilie, 36, in February 2019.
At an inquest into Ms Pintilie’s death, the Essex coroner said there had been delays, confusion and a lack of leadership after she lost six litres of blood while giving birth to her daughter.
Mrs Pintilie's husband, Ionel Pintilie, said he was "relieved" that an urgent safety deadline had been imposed on the unit.
He said: "My wife died needlessly at the hospital and the fact that it is still deemed unsafe 18 months after we lost her is a scandal."
In another case, Stela Ernu, from South Ockendon, was more than 41 weeks pregnant when she was told her baby boy's heart was no longer beating.
She had been to Basildon Hospital twice, on 12 and 13 March 2019, but "was not listened to" when she said there was something wrong and was sent home on both occasions.
She said that, when she returned a third time, on 14 March, she was given the devastating news, and there "were not words" to describe how the family felt.
Mrs Ernu said that there were "plenty" of staff members who could have helped and added: "Every time I went in there, there were plenty of rooms empty. It's a silly excuse for them to say they've been too busy. They're just not doing their jobs properly."
The hospital said a full investigation was carried out in light of Mrs Ernu's case and staff met with the family to share the findings. All recommendations from the investigation had been implemented.