CQC says Royal Free 'comprehensively responded' to maternity issues

Royal Free Hospital is to tackle its poor A&E waiting times. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Royal Free Hospital is to tackle its poor A&E waiting times. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The Royal Free has been told it "comprehensively responded" to breaches of safety in its maternity services which were highlighted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) last autumn. 

Last October, during an unannounced inspection, a team of CQC inspectors found maternity services were "inadequate", and demanded hospital bosses put in place a plan. 

They criticised staff response times to serious incidents and a lack of patient safety information in languages other than English, and raised concerns about staff training and governance. The hospital trust was given an enforcement notice demanding improvements.

Now, in a letter of feedback from the CQC's head of acute hospital inspections in London Nicola Wise, the hospital's bosses were told: "The trust has comprehensively responded to the regulatory breaches set out in the Section 29 Warning Notice of 13 November 2020.

"We found that there was good learning taking place within the department. For example, we observed maternity safety briefings taking place and observed the ‘safety message of the week’ being displayed within the unit."

In a list of positives, Ms Wise praised the Royal Free for: 

  • Complying with "duty of candour" regulations and did so in multiple languages
  • Now "facilitating a safety culture" where staff felt able to "escalate" issues internally
  • Providing patient safety leaflets in alternative languages as required
  • "Appropriately risk-assessing" patients coming into the service

However the letter said there remained issues to be addressed around staff moral, the identification of health inequality issues, and the use of electronic patient records. 

Since the CQC report in 2020, the Royal Free has carried out a staff restructuring exercise and also introduced changes in response to the national Ockenden review into maternity safety.

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The letter is enclosed, along with a similar one referencing improvements at Barnet Hospital, in a report to the Royal Free NHS Trust's board on July 28.

In the report, hospital bosses write: "This is great news with thanks to the teams involved for their efforts to evidence the change and learning implemented.

"However there remain a number of recommended improvements that we will address over coming months."

The full report was expected to be submitted to the hospital in draft form by the end of July and to be published soon after.