Apology issued after NHS nurse 'was failed by short-staffed Queen's Hospital maternity ward'
- Credit: Ken Mears / The Chisty family
An east London health trust has admitted to “failings” in its treatment of an NHS worker and her newborn baby at Queen’s Hospital.
A nurse suffering from pregnancy-related diabetes complained staff did not properly monitor both hers and then her baby’s blood sugar levels.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) has admitted that the ward was short-staffed and upheld two complaints, while apologising for what happened.
It said it would circulate two “safety briefs” reminding staff of their duties.
Sharmin Chisty, a nurse at Thurrock Community Hospital in Grays, lives with her husband Sayem in Maxwell Road, Romford - a five-minute walk from Queen’s Hospital.
The couple, in their mid-30s, learned Sharmin was pregnant in spring 2021.
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“We have been planning for a long time and we got a gift from God,” said Sayem.
But Sharmin’s pregnancy proved difficult.
She developed gestational diabetes, which affects roughly five per cent of pregnant women.
The condition can cause serious complications during labour and can result in babies dying before or shortly after they are born.
In January, just as she was due to give birth, Sharmin caught Covid-19 – so when she was admitted to Queen’s to have her baby, she was put in a room on her own.
She said staff told her that her blood sugar would have to be monitored constantly.
But, she wrote in her complaint: “This was not done. This was critical at this stage.”
When she pressed her buzzer, she alleged nobody arrived for long periods of time.
BHRUT accepted this month that the ward had been short-staffed.
“At the time of your admission to the antenatal ward, there were two midwives on duty when there should have been three,” interim chief medical officer Dr Justin Daniels wrote in a letter.
“I am sorry that we were unable to secure another midwife which left the ward short during a very busy period due to staff sickness and isolation.”
He added Sharmin’s Covid-19 diagnosis meant staff had to spend time putting on PPE before entering her room, adding to the delays.
The problems continued after Sharmin gave birth to her daughter Shahrin, she said.
Staff should have checked Shahrin’s blood sugar level within four hours of birth, but didn’t do it until after five hours, Sharmin claims.
When it was done, her level was too low and required intervention.
Meanwhile, Sayem was banned from visiting. According to the couple, he told staff he intended to file a formal complaint about Sharmin’s care and was then accused of being aggressive.
He received an email from a deputy matron: “There has been a number of complaints raised/documented by staff regarding your interaction with them that has raised concerns to the management team, hence why you have not been allowed visiting today.”
When asked by the Recorder whether it stood by allegations about Sayem’s behaviour, the hospital said he had actually been banned on health grounds.
“Sayem had tested positive for Covid-19 and was asked to leave the ward as we wanted to keep all our mothers and staff safe,” said chief nurse Kathryn Halford.
Sayem insists he was not Covid-positive and says Test and Trace records would prove it.
Whatever the reason, said Sharmin: “I was very sick and finding it difficult looking after the baby. I needed my husband’s help.”
“Following the investigation, on this occasion, the trust did identify some failings and therefore your complaint has been partially upheld,” wrote Dr Daniels.
As a result, two safety briefs are to be circulated.
One will remind staff of “the need to support women” in their care.
The other will remind them to check babies’ blood sugar within four hours of birth.
The couple welcomed these actions, but said they would press for a further investigation into the hospital’s changing story about why Sayem was banned from visiting Sharmin.
They said they wanted to save others from receiving similar treatment.
In a statement issued by BHRUT, chief nurse Halford said: “I’m sorry Sharmin is unhappy with her care and I appreciate an already stressful situation was made worse by the fact Sayem, her husband, couldn’t be with her."
This comes after the CQC told Queen's Hospital it must make improvements to its maternity services.