Following an unannounced inspection, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have downgraded maternity services at Bedford hospital to “inadequate”.
Unannounced inspection into maternity services at Bedford Hospital
Routine CQC inspections are currently on hold, due to COVID-19. However, inspectors made a surprise appearance at Bedford hospital on 5 November 2020 after staff had raised concerns about the risk of harm being caused to patients. The CQC say that they received 14 whistle-blower inquiries between August and November 2020.
The CQC’s findings
The hospital’s last CQC inspection was in August 2018. During this inspection the CQC highlighted a number of concerns and rated the hospital as ‘requires improvement’. At this time the hospital was part of the Bedford Hospital NHS Trust.
Now, registered under the Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust they fared no better. The CQC have even downgraded them to ‘inadequate’.
CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals said the downgrading is due to “concerns about staffing levels, insufficient training for staff and a poor culture amongst employees”. He also recognised that “Many of the concerns we had during this inspection had previously been highlighted in 2018.”
What does this mean for maternity services at Bedford hospital?
In addition to lowering the trust’s rating to ‘inadequate’, believing that a patient would, or may be exposed to risk, the CQC has issued a warning notice in relation to the maternity services at Bedford hospital.
The CQC’s report includes an A4 page of obligations that the hospital must legally comply with. These focus primarily on ensuring that the service has is appropriate levels of staff and that staff are appropriately trained.
A spokesperson for the hospital has said that they will take “immediate action” to improve.
What does this mean for maternity services in general?
Although we hope that the actions imposed on the trust are enough to make patients’ safe, it’s apparent that more needs to be done. The CQC’s report only adds to the questions we asked last year, about the role that ‘culture’ has to play in the safety of our hospitals. They commented that “The service did not always have an open culture where staff could raise concerns without fear.”
Given that the inspection took place following whistle-blowing inquiries, staff were obviously aware of the issues. However, the fact that they had to raise these concerns anonymously demonstrates the fear they work under. This is a big issue. Frontline workers should not feel scared to raise concerns about patient safety; they are the key to safer hospitals. We need a system that not only facilitates their concerns but takes action on any issues. Steps to hide or ignore issues does not mean they do not exist, and is likely to mean they get worse over time. Openly embracing mistakes and issues is the only way to learn and prevent them fro happening again in the future.
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