Healthwatch chair: 'Culture change needed at Queen's Hospital maternity unit'

Ambulances outside Queen's Hospital in Romford

Ambulances outside Queen's Hospital, Romford in December. - Credit: PA

A "culture change" is needed to address issues at Queen's Hospital maternity unit,  the chair of a health watchdog has said. 

Making the remarks at a joint health overview and scrutiny committee on December 14, Cathy Turland, chair of Healthwatch Redbridge, said she had heard from a black mother who no longer wants a second child after her experience at Queen’s Hospital.

Interim director of maternity services Sue Lovell told the committee there is a “very, very big action plan” to improve services over the next six months. 

These concerns, reported by Redbridge councillors and the borough’s NHS watchdog, come two months after inspectors discovered a culture of “bullying” in the unit, which sees 8,000 patients a year. 

Queen’s Hospital is run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge Universities Hospital Trust (BHRUT), which also runs King George Hospital in Goodmayes. 

Its maternity unit, which serves Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham and Havering and is one of the largest of its kind in the country, was downgraded to “requires improvement” by the CQC as a result of the inspection. 

At the committee, Ms Turland said: “We have had a black woman saying she had one baby and will never have another baby because of the treatment.

“These are not older issues, they are current, I think they need to be addressed and we do need to see a culture change.” 

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Redbridge councillor Judith Garfield alleged a "number of local residents” have also come forward about the “cultural inappropriateness of the staff”. 

She asked hospital management to explain exactly what their action plan contains at a meeting next year. 

Ms Lovell told the committee that women’s safety is the hospital’s “ultimate priority” and it has a “very, very big action plan” to improve services over the next six months. 

Cllr Neil Zammett, on Redbridge Council, also questioned why the borough's residents make do with a unit shared with two other boroughs when many parts of east London have their own service. 

He said: “This is one of the biggest maternity units in the country, the third or fourth biggest, and is in sharp contrast to the rest of east London. 

“I think there are really uncomfortable issues for senior staff around this report, and we also need to look more at services around east London, I think Redbridge has had a short stick for this. 

“How can you justify two units in Tower Hamlets and nothing in Redbridge?”