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THE Whittington hospital has some of the worst maternity services in the country, according to a new report by the Healthcare Commission.

Tan Parsons

THE Whittington hospital has some of the worst maternity services in the country, according to a new report by the Healthcare Commission.

The commission has carried out its most comprehensive review ever of maternity services at the 148 trusts in England. And the Whittington on Highgate Hill was ranked in the least well performing group.

Each trust was given a score out of five - with one the worst and five the best - for 25 key indicators. The Whittington scored either one or two in 13 of the areas examined, including postnatal care, quality of support in caring for the baby after patients go home and women's views of cleanliness of delivery and postnatal areas.

It was ranked 13th out of the 27 trusts in London with an overall mark of 2.6. University College London hospital was the 7th best in the capital with a mark of 2.77.

And the Royal Free in Hampstead was ranked the second best performing hospital in London, with 2.94.

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The Royal Free was slammed by the Healthcare Commission last year when a report revealed more than a fifth of women questioned said the care they received during labour was only fair or poor.

But the latest findings paint a different picture, with the hospital narrowly missing out on a rating of "well performing".

The Pond Street hospital has been much criticised for its maternity services in the past after high profile incidents including the death of Iain and Heather Croft's baby Riley in 2005 and complaints against midwives.

A spokeswoman for the Whittington said the report was not a fair reflection of the situation because only 144 mothers responded to the Healthcare Commission's review while a total of 3,586 deliveries were made last year.

"The Whittington received a high score for strong safety culture, staffing levels of midwives and consultants, choice when in labour, low death rates and excellent results for breastfeeding. We believe that these are the main priorities for women who use our services," she said.

David Sloman, the hospital's chief executive, added: "The Whittington Hospital provides a popular, safe and caring service for local women. On all the important indicators in the report we perform extremely well. I'm confident that we have, and continue to, look after women in a safe, informative and dignified manner. We continually look to improving all our services in any way we can."

The Healthcare Commission said the review has raised serious concerns about the standard of care for mothers and babies across London, which was particularly poor. As a result of the findings, the Whittington now has to draw up an action plan for improvement, which will then be checked by the commission.

"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," said chief executive Anna Walker.

Not everyone is unhappy with their Whittington experience however. Former Crouch End resident Ali Cronin, who gave birth to her daughter Lola there said: "Giving birth at the Whittington was brilliant. I really wanted to have a water birth and my midwife was great. She had a pool and arranged for me to have the birth in it. It was incredibly calm. They did an amazing job in difficult circumstances.