Mothers and babies put at risk: serious safety concerns raised at Colchester General Hospital and Ipswich Hospital

By Blackwater Law

If you have given birth recently or came under the care of either Colchester General Hospital or Ipswich Hospital during your pregnancy, you may have concerns or questions about the quality of care that was provided to you.

Both Colchester General Hospital and Ipswich Hospital, which are run by East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust have been downgraded by the health watchdog The Care Quality Commission (CQC) from good to requires improvement. This relates to the potential risk that mothers and babies were exposed to and concerns for their safety and wellbeing.

Owing to a number of patient complaints and whistle-blower reports from staff working in both maternity departments at Ipswich Hospital and Colchester General Hospital, an unannounced inspection was made by the CQC. The inspection revealed a number of damning findings including a 33% unexpected absence/sickness rate for midwives at Colchester General Hospital, leaving the ward short staffed for a number of months.  This meant that there were not always enough staff to keep women and babies safe.

Mounting potential for birth injuries

A number of additional factors contributed to the downgrading of both Colchester General Hospital and Ipswich Hospitals maternity services including:

Colchester General Hospital CQC findings include:

  • Staff were not always compliant with training.
  • There were not enough nursing and midwifery staff to keep women and babies safe.
  • The hospitals maternity triage system was overburdened and therefore a risk to women’s safety.
  • There was no clear booking pathway for the induction of labour – meaning there was a chance of errors, overbooking patients, potential delays to the induction of labour – all of which could place mothers and babies at increased risk.
  • Infection control measures were not sufficient – staff did not necessarily use equipment and control measures to protect mothers, themselves or others from avoidable infections.
  • Equipment and premises were not always visibly clean.
  • Daily checklists for emergency equipment were not always completed.
  • Equipment was not always stored safely – including unlocked medical equipment in corridors that could lead to unauthorised use.
  • Concerns about key information about patients being shared with the wider team and being correctly passed on during shift changes.

Ipswich Hospital CQC findings include:

  • There were not enough maternity staff with the right qualifications, skills, training and experience to keep women safe from avoidable harm.
  • Hand Hygiene Audits did not follow the World Health Organisations guidance.
  • Staff did not always recognise or act upon women at risk of deterioration.
  • There was a reliance on staff working overtime, with a concern that this was leading to staff exhaustion and exposing mothers and babies to potential risk.
  • There had been a black alert at the hospital due to unsafe staffing levels.
  • Women’s care records were not always detailed – leading to a risk of missing information for different team members.
  • Fetal movements were not always recorded in antenatal visits.
  • Incidents were not always graded correctly – for example mothers that had suffered a post-partum haemorrhage of more than 1500ml were classified as no harm, and therefore may have missed the follow up to check their recovery.

Specialist birth injury solicitors

In response to the report by CQC, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust have confirmed that additional recruitment is underway and that actions will be taken to alleviate these concerns. However, this may be of little comfort for those who have been directly impacted by poor care during their pregnancy and who have unfortunately suffered adversely as a result.

It is understandable that this report may raise questions by those who were looked after by, or gave birth at Colchester General Hospital or Ipswich Hospital – particularly in the past year. If you believe that you or your baby suffered as a result of avoidable errors and poor care, specialist birth injury solicitors, Blackwater Law can help you find the answers and take steps to protect you and your families’ interests.






Get expert legal advice

Call today and speak to Jason Brady, specialist birth injury solicitor. Find out if you can claim compensation.

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