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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Daniel Keane

Mothers and babies at Hillingdon Hospital 'at risk' due to low midwife staffing levels

Midwife staffing issues at Hillingdon Hospital’s maternity unit are putting expectant mothers and babies “at risk”, UK’s health regulator has said in a report as it downgraded the unit.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said the hospital’s maternity services “require improvement” amid growing concern over the state of maternity care in NHS hospitals.

In a report, the CQC said the service in north west London had “issues with retention and sickness of staff” and that “midwife staff numbers were sometimes low”.

“Staffing levels did not always match the planned numbers, putting the safety of women and birthing people and babies at risk,” it added.

Inspectors identified several other areas of concern, including babies being born in the antenatal ward, in triage or before arrival at hospital due to delays.

“This was a risk to women, birthing people and babies,” they wrote.

The inspection does not change the overall rating of the hospital, which is still classified as “inadequate”.

The hospital, which serves Boris Johnson’s former constituency, has long been in a state of disrepair and parts of the estate were built in the 1940s as emergency wartime accommodation.

According to the Trust, 80 per cent of the hospital building will require major repair or replacement soon.

Plans for a new hospital were approved by Hillingdon Council last year and it is named in the Government’s New Hospitals Programme. Ministers recently confirmed that it would be rebuilt by 2030.

Last year, the CQC said that 65 per cent of maternity services were rated as inadequate or requiring improvement for safety.

Carolyn Jenkinson, the CQC’s deputy director of secondary and specialist healthcare, said: “When we inspected maternity services at The Hillingdon Hospital we found most staff doing their best to provide women and people using the service with safe, compassionate care.

“However, they were under a lot of pressure due to staffing issues, and leaders didn’t always respond quickly to concerns. This put people’s safety at risk.

“For example, we saw staff didn’t always fully complete risk assessments for people when they arrived. This meant people at the highest risk weren’t always seen quickly enough.”

She added that the Trust had been “addressing our concerns” and that “when things went wrong, the service raised and investigated this well”.

A spokesperson for Hillingdon Hospital said: “Our Trust accepts the findings of the CQC inspectors’ report.

“Since their visit, a great deal of work has been done to make improvements to our service for women and birthing people.

“We have a plan in place to put these changes into effect and have already made progress in resolving some of the identified concerns. We are fully engaged not only in making these improvements but on making them promptly.

"We are supporting our hard-working and dedicated staff, who should be proud of the inspectors’ findings about our strong focus on the needs of women and birthing people receiving safe care, plus their caring attitudes and behaviours towards our patients.

"We know these strengths will help us as we continue to make the required improvements."

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