Report into maternity care at Barrow’s Furness General Hospital makes disturbing reading

The Kirkup report into the maternity unit at Barrow’s Furness General Hospital makes disturbing reading. Not only for the terrible human tragedies but also because of the failings highlighted in the organisations designed to prevent such events from occurring. The CQC and the Health Service Ombudsman are supposed to be the guardians safeguarding the welfare of patients using NHS services, and in this instance those organisations failed to have regard to the very real concerns of the patients and staff affected by the shortcomings within the hospital trust and in particular within the maternity department.

It is galling to read that a consultant obstetrician at the Trust raised concerns as long ago as 2008 and that those concerns went unheeded by the management of the Trust. The report confirms that in 2009 clinical governance systems throughout the Trust were “inadequate”; and that the drive to secure foundation status hampered the implementation of the improvements needed within the maternity unit in particular. After that, there followed a series of failings by the CQC and the Ombudsman. It was only in 2011 that the significant problems were finally brought to light, and the report concludes that between 2008 and 2011 at least 7 significant opportunities to put matters right were missed. The Trust is criticised for not being “honest and open with external bodies or the public”.

We had all hoped that the problems in North Staffordshire would serve as a lesson to the NHS as a whole that standards and accountability needed to be improved across the board. Sadly for those involved in the Morecambe Bay Hospitals tragedy the improvements within this particular hospital have come too late.

Further information on the report can be found on the BBC website here