Royal Free Hospital chief grilled on response to damning maternity report

The Royal Free Hospital

The Royal Free Hospital - Credit: Archant

Camden councillors told a top Royal Free exec they want to see more detail on how leadership and communication have been improved after a damning Care Quality Commission report. 

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.

Inner North London's senior coroner Mary Hassell wrote to the trust warning of failings around the death of Malyun Karama in February 2020. Ms Karama died during childbirth at the hospital.

At Camden Council's health and social care scrutiny committee, Deborah Sanders – now chief exec of Barnet Hospital and previously the Royal Free's director of nursing – presented the hospital trust's response, and took questions from councillors. 

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Cllr Sian Berry was concerned about awareness of Camden's diversity at the Royal Free - Credit: Archant

Ms Sanders told the committee: "We responded with a comprehensive action plan, absolutely determined to fix the things the CQC were concerned about and absolutely rebuild women's confidence in our services. 97% of the actions are now complete."

In a report to the committee, she said the Royal Free carried out a number of actions in response, including introducing translated safety leaflets, improving early warning systems and use of digital patient records, and changing procedures around learning from incidents.

Cllr Sian Berry (Green, Highgate) said: "The thing in the CQC report that really worried me was the leadership section where it talks about the lack of awareness of staff when asked about the languages that are spoken in our area. It seems like there's work to be done when inducting staff there." 

Cllr Paul Tomlinson (Lab, St Pancras and Somers Town) raised concerns about levels of staff training and leadership. Ms Sanders said ensuring awareness of Camden's diversity was "clearly a concern for us", and that "a lot of work has been done with the team" on that point. She said maternity staff took part in "constant" training.

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Cllr Tomlinson added: "I think the issues raised by the inspection were really challenging, and there are some really key issues there it'd be good to look at again."

A follow-up CQC report is due later in July.