East Kent Maternity Negligence

East Kent Maternity Negligence

A first-time mother has shared her distressing experience of maternity negligence at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent. The maternity unit was nearly shut down in January last year after patient safety concerns.

Philippa Chapman revealed that the staff neglected to clean her bed for three days after she gave birth in March of the previous year.

Mrs Chapman, states that her childbirth experience was extremely traumatic and the thought of returning to the unit fills her with fear for her own safety. The hospital trust has since issued an apology to Mrs Chapman for the specific incident and acknowledged their broader shortcomings.

Mrs Chapman’s maternity negligence came to light following revelations that health inspectors had considered closing the William Harvey’s maternity unit earlier in the year due to safety concerns. However, instead, the Care Quality Commission demanded immediate improvements after conducting a visit.

Independent Review into Maternity Negligence

This inspection took place just weeks after a review in October.  This review was led by Dr Bill Kirkup CBE, who carefully examined the two hospitals during an 11-year timeframe from 2009.

The review revealed that approximately within 202 cases, up to 45 babies could have potentially survived had they received improved care from the trust.

In its findings, the review identified a consistent pattern of maternity negligence, resulting in significant harm to patients. Additionally, it highlights the fact that families affected by these failures were largely disregarded and their concerns ignored.

Mrs Chapman’s Case of Maternity Negligence

Mrs Chapman’s distressing experience unfolded when she went into labour and requested an epidural. However, staff told her that there were no available staff members to assist her. She recounts she was told to “wait until either your life is in danger or his (her son’s) life is in danger before we can bump you up the queue. It was horrific”.

After enduring hours of labour, Mrs Chapman’s son, Ambrose, was finally born following an episiotomy. However, shortly after his birth, he developed jaundice, and both mother and baby required a five-day stay at the hospital. Despite her requests for clean bedding, Mrs Chapman was left lying in blood-stained sheets for three days, even retaining the same sheets used during the episiotomy.

Long List of Failings

The subsequent inspection of the William Harvey Hospital in East Kent uncovered a long list of instances where the unit’s practices fell short. Examples included staff members failing to adhere to proper handwashing protocols after each patient encounter and not appropriately positioning life-saving equipment.

In the aftermath of this visit, the healthcare watchdog expressed grave concerns regarding safety and issued a warning to the trust, threatening enforcement action to ensure the protection of patients.

Helen Gittos, whose newborn daughter died in the care of the East Kent Hospitals Trust, said there were “fundamental” problems at the trust. She adds, “When my daughter Harriet was born, the then head of midwifery was so concerned about safety that she thought that the William Harvey, in particular, should be closed down.”

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “Here we are, almost nine years later, in a similar kind of situation. What has been happening has not worked.”

Inspector’s Key Findings

The inspectors’ key findings included:

  • At the William Harvey Hospital, inspectors found bloodstains on toilets
  • In daycare and triage, inspectors “routinely” saw staff did not always clean their hands or use aprons and gloves while delivering care
  • Staff were not ensuring resuscitators were available in the right place, nor were they cleaning and checking them regularly
  • Staff at the hospital were not always seeking a second opinion
  • Staff morale was low across both hospitals
  • The hospital was not always promoting equality and diversity at the QEQM

Proposed Improvements to Reduce Maternity Negligence

Following the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) warning of potential closure, the trust vowed to implement swift improvements in its care practices. As a result, the CQC determined that weekly monitoring of their services would be satisfactory.

The inspection resulted in their CQC rating downgrading from “requires improvement” to “inadequate,” for for maternity services at both the William Harvey Hospital and The QEQM in Margate.

Deanna Westwood, the CQC’s director of operations for the southern region, announced that the watchdog has taken urgent enforcement measures, utilizing their powers to demand immediate improvements at the trust.

Comments from Tracey Fletcher, East Kent Hospitals Trust Chief Executive

Tracey Fletcher, East Kent Hospitals trust chief executive, said: “I am sorry that despite the commitment and hard work of our staff when they inspected in January, the CQC found that the trust was not consistently providing the standards of maternity care women and families should expect.”

She said the trust has since increased doctor staffing in the triage service at William Harvey. Additionally, the trust has ensured better access to emergency equipment and improved cleaning.

Ms Fletcher also said she was “truly sorry” for Ms Chapman’s experience.

“I am committed to making the improvements needed to ensure we are consistently providing high standards of care for every family, every time. I am sorry that this was not the case for Philippa,” she said.

Comments from Niall Dickson, East Kent Hospitals Trust Chair

Niall Dickson, chair of the trust, said: “This is a sobering and highly critical report.”

He told the BBC’s Today programme: “We knew that some of this would take time, but this report underlines both how much more we need to do, but also frankly we need to concentrate on the basics.

“There’s a new director of midwifery and her deputy, who have both come from outstanding trusts, and I know their focus is on getting those basics right and getting those basics in place.”

 Making a Maternity Negligence Claim

With the latest statistic of 28% of women who gave birth in hospital reporting mistreatment, it’s important to spread awareness that you or a loved one may be able to receive compensation for any suffering endured.

We recognize the profound impact that experiencing maternity negligence can have on your life, both in the present and in the long term. It may require taking time off work for recovery or even erode your trust in healthcare professionals.

Our team of medical negligence solicitors are experts in their field with a genuine passion for advocating on behalf of clients like you so that you can receive the compensation you need to be able to focus on healing.

AWH Solicitors Covering Patient Safety in the NHS

Cartwright King has been writing articles covering the topic of patient safety in the NHS and medical negligence claims. Below you can read further about other relevant topics:

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