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Queen's Hospital maternity report: Patients 'at risk'

Patients are still at risk at an east London hospital, according to a health watchdog report after the deaths of two pregnant women.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) review began in June after the deaths of Tebussum Ali and Violet Stephens at Queen's Hospital in Romford.

Mrs Stephens died in April and Ms Ali and her baby died in January.

The Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust said it would improve.

The CQC report identified "serious problems" and placed requirements on the trust to deliver "fundamental and wide-ranging improvements".

Midwives suspended

The report said: "Despite some signs of improvement in recent months, patients remain at risk of poor care in this trust.

"While the most immediate concerns were around maternity services, failings were also identified in emergency care and in radiology.

"Widespread improvement is needed in patient flows, the management of complaints, staff recruitment and governance in order to improve patient experience."

An independent report found in the case of Mrs Stephens, who was admitted with potentially life-threatening pre-eclampsia, there was a failure to give a blood transfusion and a delay in making the decision to deliver her baby.

In the case of Ms Ali, who was also known as Sareena, the report found staff had failed to spot signs of her ruptured womb and tried to resuscitate her with a disconnected oxygen mask.

Image caption Tebussum Ali and her baby died in January

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the standard of care provided by the trust must improve substantially.

"We should be prepared to shine a spotlight on problems where they exist, because poor performance is not just a statistic or a line on a graph.

"It means patients being let down, or hurt, or worse."

The CQC inquiry found the most significant problems were at Queen's Hospital, although elements of poor care were present across both of the trust's main sites.

However the CQC said leadership of the trust was improving due to the efforts of a new chief executive and medical director.

Speaking after the publication of the report, the trust's chief executive Averil Dongworth said: "We are taking the findings of this report extremely seriously and have already started work to implement its recommendations.

"We recognise that there have been failures in the past, but we are determined to continue to improve until we are among the best trusts in the country."

She said seven members of staff had already or were in the process of being disciplined and there were more to follow.

The trust also said it had recruited an extra 72 midwives this year and had improved staff support and training.

Lawyer Sarah Harman, who is taking legal proceedings on behalf of 20 maternity patients of Queen's Hospital, said: "For patients to receive a reasonable standard of care there needs to be a significant change in the staff culture.

"Patients' concerns should be listened to and their complaints acted on.

"Had this happened in the past, the tragedies in the maternity unit this year would have been avoided."

Director of nursing Deborah Wheeler said the trust was unable to comment on the legal action.

The government has said plans to move maternity and emergency services to Queen's Hospital from King George Hospital in Ilford can go ahead, as long as ministers are satisfied that services are safe.

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