Almost 40% of maternity units are hit by failings: Huge number of centres for mothers-to-be are failing to meet basic safety standards, health watchdog warns

  • Nearly four in ten maternity services are failing to meet basic safety standards, a safety watchdog has warned
  • 38 per cent of units were currently rated as ‘requiring improvement for safety’ 
  • Professor Ted Baker highlighted ‘cultural issues’, including a lack of training 

Nearly four in ten maternity services are failing to meet basic safety standards, a health watchdog warned today.

Professor Ted Baker highlighted ‘significant cultural issues’, including a lack of training and ‘dysfunctional’ teams of consultants and midwives.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals at regulator the Care Quality Commission told MPs that 38 per cent of units were currently rated as ‘requiring improvement for safety’, with a further 1 per cent ‘inadequate.’ Meanwhile, Sir Bill Kirkup, who is leading up a major inquiry into the maternity scandal at East Kent hospitals, warned of a cover-up culture.

Nearly four in ten maternity services are failing to meet basic safety standards, a health watchdog warned today (File image)

Nearly four in ten maternity services are failing to meet basic safety standards, a health watchdog warned today (File image) 

He said: ‘There are some units which actively conceal what they’re doing. When they get in sufficient trouble, their response is to stop communicating with the outside world and disguise the failings that they’ve got.

‘My view is that a lot of it lies in the leadership of those units and the fact they become isolated and nobody can quite spot what’s happening.’ Professor Baker and Sir Bill gave evidence to MPs on the health select committee which is investigating the safety of NHS maternity units.

The committee launched its inquiry after major failings were uncovered at one of the country’s largest hospital trusts, East Kent, where up to 15 babies have died since 2011. Another review is under way into what is feared to be the NHS’s biggest maternity scandal at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust in Shropshire. Nearly 2,000 families have made complaints about their care and they include those who have lost mothers and babies. Professor Baker told the committee – whose chairman is former health secretary Jeremy Hunt – that he was concerned about the lack of progress in maternity services.

He said: ‘Some 38 per cent require improvement… That is a significant number and larger than in other specialities. That is a reflection of the cultural issues in maternity services nationally.’

The CQC later confirmed that a further 1 per cent had been rated inadequate for safety. Professor Baker added: ‘Those problems are of dysfunction, of poor leadership, of poor culture, of parts of the service not working together – midwives and obstetricians.

‘This is a significant cultural issue across maternity services.’

Last month the Mail revealed how the East Kent Hospitals trust was suspected of covering up baby deaths by failing to report 100 suspicious cases to the coroners.

This month we highlighted figures showing that mistakes on maternity wards were costing the NHS £1billion a year.

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