MATERNITY care in the NHS is worse than any time in the last 13 years, the safety watchdog has said.
It comes after an inquiry this week revealed one of the health service’s worst ever scandals, in which 45 babies died due to poor quality care at hospitals in Kent.
The Care Quality Commission, which was set up in 2009, said 39 per cent of mum-and-baby units are now rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement”.
Chris Day, director of engagement at the regulator, said: “I think it’s likely, given the fall that we’ve seen in the last year, and the risks that we’re seeing today, that the stats are the worst that we’ve seen in the time the CQC has been in existence.”
The Kirkup Inquiry into failings at East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust on Wednesday became the second major maternity scandal this year.
It followed a review by top midwife Donna Ockenden which found 201 babies and nine mums could have survived if care was better at hospitals in Shrewsbury and Telford.
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Investigators in Kent said “tribal” staff put patient safety at risk on dozens of occasions and bosses and board members failed to improve services for over a decade.
Inquiry leader Dr Bill Kirkup and other health officials warn similar things are still happening across the NHS.
Ian Trenholm, CEO of the CQC, said: “We think those failings are systemic – two out of five maternity services are now ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.
“I don't think any of us think that's an acceptable number.
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“We're not seeing the rate of improvement that we would like to see and what we see, time and again, are issues about leadership and culture.”
In a statement to MPs on Thursday, health minister Dr Caroline Johnson said: “We cannot pretend the story of East Kent is a one-off.
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“Everyone has the right to expect the same high-quality care no matter who they are or where they live.
“We are already taking a number of steps to improve the quality of maternity care – in East Kent and across the country.”
A report by the Care Quality Commission today warns the NHS and social care are “deteriorating” because of staff shortages.
The health and care safety watchdog said half a million people are on a waiting list for social care and thousands are stuck in hospitals or waiting for appointments.
Mr Trenholm said: “There’s lots of great care out there but the fact is that it’s hard for health and care staff to deliver it in a gridlocked system.
“There are no quick fixes, but there are steps to be taken now on planning, investment and workforce that will help to avoid continuing deterioration.”
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