Northwick Park Hospital’s maternity service improves from 'inadequate' to 'requires improvement'

General view of Northwick Park Hospital as staff in England and Northern Ireland to go on strike, No

The maternity rating for Northwick Park hospital has improved - Credit: PA Images

Northwick Park Hospital’s maternity service has improved from ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’ after its latest inspection. 

The Care Quality Commission [CQC] found a ‘blame culture’ - which had been previously noted - had improved during their unannounced inspection in October. The report was published this week. 

Maternity services were judged on five key areas. The CQC decided it was ‘good’ for being ‘caring’ and ‘effective’ - the former rating being maintained and latter improving from ‘requires improvement’.

However, the other three key areas, ‘safe’, ‘responsive’ and ‘well-led’ are all still ‘requires improvement’ - which is now the overall rating for the maternity unit. 

Nicola Wise, CQC’s head of hospital inspection, said: “After our previous inspection, we were concerned there was a blame culture within the service which stopped incidents being escalated and improvements being made.

“This has improved, and staff are encouraged to give feedback and report incidents which are now being reviewed and learning shared, with improvements being tracked. 

“We found a zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying and inappropriate behaviour, which was an improvement from our last inspection.

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“Women using the service told us staff treated them with kindness.”

Among the issues identified, the CQC listed: A lack of midwifery with the right qualifications and skills, long waiting times, and the birth centre being closed due to staff shortages.

One ‘never event’ - an NHS term for a situation to be avoided at all costs - was seen to have occurred. A swab was left inside a patient when they were being induced, even though two members of staff had signed a document showing that the correct number of swabs had been counted following the procedure. 

In addition, women who were attending the service to have their pregnancy terminated often had to wait for 45 minutes for their appointment in the same waiting room as women attending antenatal and postnatal clinics. 

Antenatal classes have been reduced as a result of the logistics of providing classes during the pandemic, the CQC said. Online classes had been planned, but these had not been implemented at the time of inspection. 

Ms Wise added: “Following this inspection, we pointed out areas where further improvements need to be made. However, the interim leadership team is aware of the issues, and is committed to making the required improvements.”

“One person who had recently given birth, said that staff had gone above and beyond to provide safe care and treatment.

"They also respected people’s personal, cultural, social and religious needs. Another woman who wore a hijab said that staff had respected them and their privacy regarding this.” 

Chief nurse Lisa Knight said: “We’ve listened to the CQC and it’s encouraging that they have recognised the positive changes in our maternity unit.

“We understand that we have more work to do but I’m pleased that our teams have embraced the challenge. The hard work and dedication of our staff has started to show a real difference. 

“We’re paying close attention to the areas where we still need to make changes, and we’re totally committed to continuing with our maternity improvement plan.

“Now we’ll continue to work with our local families and communities to offer them the excellent care they deserve.”

Cllr Ketan Sheth, chairman of Brent Council’s community and wellbeing scrutiny committee, welcomed the result. 

“I’m pleased to see that the CQC have upgraded Northwick Park’s maternity service to ‘requires improvement’ and rated the service as ‘good’ for caring and effective,” he said. 

“This is welcome progress for our local maternity service and it is encouraging to see that the CQC have noted a marked improvement in the morale and culture of the department. 

“Of course there is more work to do and I know that the hospital is committed to delivering the very best care for our local communities through its maternity improvement plan.”