St Mary's maternity unit is one of worst in the country

ST MARY'S hospital in Paddington has some of the worst performing maternity services in the country

Susanna Wilkey

ST MARY'S hospital in Paddington has some of the worst performing maternity services in the country.

The Healthcare Commission has carried out its most comprehensive review ever of maternity services at the 148 trusts in England.

And St Mary's is in the least well performing group - lagging behind in a range of key areas it needs to improve.

Royal College of Midwives' regional officer for London, Francine Allen, said: "Maternity services have been starved of the money they need.

"In real terms, the money that maternity is getting from the government is falling so we just do not have the money to spend on services.

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"Also in London, the birth rate has been steadily rising.

"We need a system where the commissioners and government are able to swiftly respond to the needs of the maternity services."

Each trust was given a score from one to five - one the worst and five the best - for 25 different indicators.

St Mary's scored one for offering women an informed choice for screening tests and for the integration of support workers.

It scored a two for the appropriate use of caesarean sections and for the extent of choice in labour.

The quality of support in caring for the baby after discharge also scored a two.

Hospitals across London performed poorly with the highest number of "least well performing" maternity services of any of the 10 strategic health authority areas across England.

But St Mary's was ranked 18th out of the 27 trusts in the area with an average score of 2.52.

Chief executive of the commission, Anna Walker, said: "The review raises real concerns about performance in London.

"There are a number of factors that may have influenced these results, such as lower staffing levels.

"But London trusts need to rise to these challenges to provide a more satisfactory service for women.

"Every trust that received a 'least well performing' score will have to produce an action plan, which the commission will check.

"We have deliberately made the experience of women central to this review.

"The care given to women during pregnancy, birth and the time just after giving birth is extremely important to both the mother and the baby."

A spokeswoman for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs St Mary's, said: "This is a wake-up call to London's maternity services to improve their responsiveness to patient needs and expectations.

"It is not enough for us to provide amongst the UK's finest quality clinical services if patients are left dissatisfied with the rest of their experience.

"We have learnt from these findings and are confident that next year's results will show a major improvement to our rating, reflecting how we are responding to patient expectations.

"At Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, we care for some of the most complex women's health and pregnancy cases in the UK, referred to us from all over the country."

St Mary's hospital will soon be opening a new, midwife-led birth centre giving women with uncomplicated pregnancies more choice about how they deliver their babies.