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Royal London Hospital warned over maternity unit security

The biggest hospital in Europe has been ordered to improve security, after inspectors found that mothers ‘might leave the unit with the wrong baby’.
Royal London Hospital

The biggest hospital in Europe has been ordered to improve security on its maternity ward, after inspectors found that mothers might leave the unit with the wrong baby.

Care Quality Commission inspectors said there was a risk new mothers might leave the Royal London Hospital with the wrong baby. Picture: Press Association

Some babies born at the Royal London Hospital had no name tags, which created a risk that a baby might receive medication intended for another baby, and mothers might leave the unit with the wrong baby, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said .

Not enough midwives

Inspectors said there was lax practice of checking babies name bands, and that there were not enough midwives on the delivery suite to provide safe cover for all women.

And midwives

The biggest hospital in Europe has been ordered to improve security on its maternity ward, after inspectors found that mothers ‘might leave the unit with the wrong baby’.



Care Quality Commission inspectors said there was a
risk new mothers might leave the Royal London Hospital
with the wrong baby. Picture: Press Association

Some babies born at the Royal London Hospital had no name tags, which created a ‘risk that a baby might receive medication intended for another baby, and mothers might leave the unit with the wrong baby’, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said.

‘Not enough midwives’

Inspectors said there was ‘lax’ practice of checking babies’ name bands, and that there were not enough midwives on the delivery suite to provide safe cover for all women.

And midwives said they had been ordered by managers not to raise concerns about low staff numbers.

Inspectors, who visited the Royal London in July this year, said they also observed some ‘intra-cultural issues and some bullying behaviour’, both between groups of midwives and between midwives and patients.

Doctors and midwives on the postnatal ward referred to patients by their bed numbers rather than by name, the CQC said.

The CQC has ordered Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, to urgently improve security in maternity after rating the service inadequate.

Security lacking

CQC chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said: ‘We were most concerned about the standard of care around maternity and gynaecology services.

‘Staffing on maternity wards was sometimes inadequately covered, but most worrying of all was the lack of a safe and secure environment for newborn babies.

‘At the time of our inspection, we raised this with the Royal London Hospital as a matter for their urgent attention.’

Last year 4,645 babies were born at the Royal London, the largest stand-alone acute hospital building in Europe.

Improvements made

A spokesperson for Barts Health said the trust acted immediately to improve security, including introducing new baby ID tags.

The trust has also reviewed its procedure for lock-down at the hospital, which is tested monthly.

‘Women should be assured our services are safe and we will review our processes regularly to ensure they remain safe,’ the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, inspectors at another hospital run by Barts Health NHS Trust, Whipps Cross University Hospital, said they did not find a single element of outstanding care across the whole hospital.

Overall, the CQC inspection rated Whipps Cross inadequate.

Inspectors observed one dying patient at the hospital asking for vegetarian food being told by a nurse: ‘You will not get vegetarian diet in here. Where you think you are, a hotel?’

Trust response

Inspectors also found many examples of a lack of compassion towards patients.

They said: ‘On a few instances during our unannounced visit, we observed patients were visibly in pain, but staff did not respond to this by providing them with analgesia.

’One patient looked dirty, with stains all down the front of their nightwear, and staff neither noticed it nor took any actions to wash and care for the patient,’ the report states.

The inspectors also raised concerns about infection control practice in surgery, having observed some staff wearing their surgical scrubs in other parts of the hospital, including the canteen.

A Barts spokesperson said: ‘The CQC found that since its last inspection, end of life care at Whipps Cross is now safer, more effective and better led.

’We have also made a quiet space for sensitive conversations to be held in privacy, and overhauled our training in end of life care with the oversight of board-level leadership to ensure progress.’

Despite the overall inadequate rating, the CQC said there had been some big changes in management at Whipps Cross, and that the hospital was ‘moving in the right direction’.


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