Shoosmiths’ Serious Injury legal director Dan O’Keeffe gives his views on news that maternity services at Leicester NHS Trust have been assessed as “inadequate”.
As the parent of a child born under their care, it is very concerning to read that University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has been assessed as “inadequate” by the CQC for their maternity care. The CQC also noted a deterioration in the service provided, since their previous inspection.
Both the Leicester Royal Infirmary and the Leicester General Hospital were assessed as “inadequate” in the latest assessment by the CQC. The third maternity care site, St Mary’s Birth Centre, in Melton, was rated “good” overall but lost its “well-led” rating.
As President of the Leicestershire Medico-Legal Society last year, I have spoken at length with many doctors from the Trust and I have seen first-hand their dedication to their work, to provide the best care possible for their patients.
My youngest child, now aged six, was born at the Leicester General Hospital and thankfully I had no issues of concern with the care my wife and child received in the maternity unit.
However, when sat in the coroner’s court in Leicester, representing the parents of a baby who died in the maternity unit, it is impossible not to be touched by the unspeakable agony the parents have gone through.
There is no greater loss, than the loss of a child. These deaths are even more tragic and even harder to accept, when the death was entirely avoidable and has been brought on by negligence in the care provided to the mother and/or baby. Sadly, I have seen many instances where mother and baby have been severely damaged and some occasions where the baby has died, following the care provided in the lead up to birth and in the neonatal period, shortly after birth.
The CQC ratings of the Leicester hospitals put further focus on maternity care, following recent high-profile cases at other Trusts.
The Ockenden maternity review into Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust, found hundreds of babies died or were brain damaged after repeated errors in care. 4 “pillars” for essential action were identified: Safe staffing, a well-trained workforce, learning from incidents and listening to families.
Ms Donna Ockenden, a senior midwife, is now leading an investigation into the care provided to mothers and babies at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, following concerns regarding the quality and safety of the maternity services.
As recently reported in the media, the parents of Ansh Joshi, have now called for a public inquiry into the standard of care provided in the Leicester maternity units. Ansh died in April 2022, 2 days after his birth. His father argues:
“It wasn’t just a freak accident where we lost our son. It was actually a systematic failure all the way through.”
As reported in the Evening Standard, Julie Hogg, Chief Nurse at the Trust, has addressed some of the concerns raised regarding the maternity unit. She conceded that “there is much more to do” and that “improving maternity services is a key priority”
Julie Hogg, has also pointed out a new director of midwifery had been appointed to strengthen staffing. In addition, 25 new midwives had started since January, with another 24 set to join in November. The Trust have invested in new equipment and they are carrying out daily safety checks and according to Ms Hogg, have already made rapid improvements to the levels of cleanliness in the maternity units. The Trust has also penned an open letter, in a bid to reassure patients that changes have already been made.
We must now see positive action. It is essential that the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust take tangible steps to reassure patients that they will receive safe and appropriate care in the maternity unit, when at their most vulnerable.
The CQC have been invited back to see the improvements identified by the Trust. As someone who has represented parents whose babies have died following negligent care provided in the Leicester maternity units, I can only hope that real change is now seen.
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2023