Major investigation into care at London NHS trust

A major inquiry has begun at an east London NHS trust following serious concerns about the levels of patient care, including in A&E and maternity.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has started a full investigation - only the second time it has done so - into the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust.

In April it was told to improve its maternity services but the CQC said not enough has been done.

The trust said it welcomed the inquiry.

In April 2010, the CQC imposed eight conditions on the trust - seven of which have now been lifted - due to concerns about its performance.

Since then, inspectors have made unannounced visits, resulting in urgent demands for improvement and have carried out reviews into the maternity and A&E services.

The review of A&E, which will be published next month, found that problems with how the department was organised was affecting care.

The review of maternity services, published in April, found the trust was failing to meet six essential standards, with two areas - staffing, and care and welfare of people - a major cause for concern.

Image caption Serena Ali and her baby died after staff failed to spot a ruptured womb

At this time, staff told inspectors that patient care was being compromised by staffing issues, and the CQC warned the trust that this must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

It has since recruited 60 midwives.

The report came three months after two midwives were suspended following the death of Tebussum Ali, known as Serena, and her newborn baby at Queen's Hospital in Romford.

Staff had failed to spot signs of her ruptured womb and tried to resuscitate her with a disconnected oxygen mask.

The CQC's Colin Hough said: "CQC has now launched a full investigation into whether Barking Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust has the right systems in place to protect people and make sure they receive safe care.

"We'll also be looking at the bigger picture - whether the trust has the support it needs to make improvements."

The trust's chief executive Averil Dongworth said: "The CQC recognises that some improvements have already been made, although we need to go further and sustain this.

"We welcome the CQC's investigation and will be working closely with them."

The CQC has a range of powers, including the ability to close wards and hospitals.

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