Major investigation into continued ‘serious concerns’ at Romford hospital trust

�The safety of patients of Queen’s Hospital trust remains of such “serious concern” that a major new investigation has been launched by a health watchdog this week.

The Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust – which manages Queen’s, in Rom Valley Way, Romford, and King George, in Goodmayes – is only the second in the country to be probed fully for its continued failings. And it could face prosecution.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will now examine whether the trust is protecting patients, particularly those in maternity and A&E, from “unsafe care”.

Colin Hough, the CQC’s regional director for London, said a string of unannounced visits had been made, but added: “We keep finding problems.”

Maternity deaths

It followed “serious concerns about patient care” raised by staff and patients, the watchdog said.

Maternity deaths at the trust in the past year were three times the national average, and last week Barking MP Margaret Hodge, speaking in the House of Commons, called for an independent inquiry.

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Sarah Harman, who specialises in medical negligence, said: “This investigation is essential. I have had dozens of women coming to me with complaints about their care in Queen’s and I believe if complaints made in 2009 and 2010 had been looked at more closely, we would not have had the deaths.”

Investigators will examine the qualifications and skills of staff, and the hospitals’ risk management systems.

The CQC, an independent regulator of care provided by the NHS, put eight conditions on the trust in April 2010, seven of which have now been met. But since then, “urgent demands for improvement” have been made.

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas, who has been campaigning for better care at Queen’s, said: “This is a good day. After months and months where we have been making these points on behalf of residents and where community confidence was falling away, we now have some action ahead of planed closures across the region and extra pressures on the hospital.”

The CQC’s findings into both Queen’s and King George hospitals is due in the Autumn.

Trust 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 findings of the investigation will be extremely helpful, highlighting any areas which they, our patients or staff feel needs further attention.”