June 10, 2020

East Kent hospital maternity unit still ‘requires improvement’ – what the latest reports say

Following my article in March about the inquest findings into the tragic case of Harry Richford, there have been two published Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections at the Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, Margate Hospital. These have rated the hospital as “requires improvement” and found inexperienced staff were left to assess high-risk maternity patients. Whilst there had been some improvement from the 2018 inspection, there was still significant work to be done in antenatal services.

The improvements that have been made

It is important to recognise there have been particular improvements in learning and development and there was a clear vision for what needed to be achieved at the hospital.

For instance, CTG monitor training has been provided to staff. CTG tracing is of vital importance to antenatal care. It records the heart rate of both baby and mother and, with appropriate training, allows medical staff to interpret data and assess the risk of hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) and acidemia (where the blood becomes abnormally acidic). The fact the hospital have introduced this training is very encouraging.

What still needs to be done

Despite encouraging signs, this is only the beginning of a long journey to improve patient safety. The most recent inspections found antenatal outpatients were poorly maintained and concerns were not always reported to managers.

For instance, Junior midwives were left working alone with little in the way of support when an emergency presented. A doctor was not always available. Following this, the Trust are now looking at ways to ensure appropriate cover is always in place.

I am encouraged to see that there are positive signs of change, however there is clearly work still to be done particularly in relation to antenatal services and the support for junior staff. I await the findings of the Independent Review which is ongoing at the Trust.

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