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Care watchdog due to report findings of inspection of maternity services at East Kent Hospitals in baby death scandal

A care watchdog is due to report its findings to government today into maternity services at the hospital trust at the centre of the baby death scandal.

An announcement by ministers on whether a public inquiry will be held is also expected.

QEQM Hospital in Margate. Picture: Google Street View
QEQM Hospital in Margate. Picture: Google Street View

The Care Quality Commission carried out a no-notice inspection last month of East Kent Hospitals, which runs the QEQM in Margate and William Harvey in Ashford, where more than 20 maternity cases are being investigated.

The watchdog was asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to report back within 14 days, which would be today.

The inspection took place during the inquest of baby Harry Richford, from Birchington, who died following a string of failures by medics at the Margate Hospital in 2017.

His death sparked a BBC investigation which exposed several more potentially preventable baby deaths and other concerns at the maternity units.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has now called for an inquiry into the safety of NHS maternity services, which is expected to be discussed today in the House of Commons.

Harry Richford
Harry Richford

A damning probe last month revealed multiple concerns over medical practices and the possibility that some baby deaths could have been prevented.

The findings revealed that at least seven babies' deaths since 2016 might not have happened if standards had been higher.

In a separate report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, drawn up in 2015 but not handed to the CQC by the hospitals trust until last year, investigators shared worrying findings concerning the hospitals, particularly Margate.

It includes a reluctance by consultants to attend maternity units when requested and inconsistent rounds by them on the labour wards.

Investigators also found maternity units were 'vulnerable' out of hours, that guidelines were led by midwives with poor consultant participation, and that there were poor labour ward facilities at both sites.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt

Concerns were also raised over consultants failing to attend training for CTG - the process which monitors a baby's heart rate during labour.

In the report, seven cases were detailed where serious incident reviews had been carried out, with two involving the deaths of babies.

In a statement released by the hospitals trust, a spokesman said a number of changes have already been made to maternity services, but the scale of change needed has not taken place quickly enough.

"We recognise that we have not always provided the right standard of care for every woman and baby in our hospitals and we wholeheartedly apologise to families for whom we could have done things differently," she said.

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