Report highlights shortcomings and culture of “bullying” at Queen’s Hospital maternity unit

Queen’s Hospital staff have spoken out about a culture of “bullying” left unchecked by senior leadership.

The Romford hospital’s maternity unit was told today that it “requires improvement” in a report published by the CQC.

The report, based on an inspection in June, also found serious incidents at the unit were being “easily dismissed”, resulting in a “lack of learning”.

In a statement, the chief executive of the hospital’s NHS trust apologised for falling short of expectations and vowed to improve.

The report states: “Several members of staff raised concerns regarding poor culture and bullying and that the senior leadership team did not seem to listen to staff. 

“Staff told us the leadership team were aware of the cultural issues but did not challenge individuals or hold them accountable for poor attitudes and behaviours.”

Despite this being a “long standing issue”, the leadership have “recently started to take action”, the report notes.

For example, consultants now have coaching sessions and the hospital has hired a new clinical lead and a second head of midwifery.

The report also states some staff had described a “disconnect” between senior doctors and hospital executives, who were said to threaten people with performance management reviews.

Managers described feeling “sidelined” by senior medical staff who drew up action plans to deal with issues or incidents without informing them.

A recent survey of staff showed only 43 per cent felt communication between senior staff and management was effective, an improvement on the 17% recorded in 2020.

To deal with these “cultural issues” in the consultant body, an organisational psychologist has now been brought in.

Positives noted in the report included effective prioritisation of women, fast staff reactions to emergencies and twice daily multidisciplinary handovers.

However, senior staff told inspectors they worried about a “high threshold” for investigating serious incidents.

It said: “They felt incidents were easily dismissed and the level of investigation did not always reflect the severity of incidents.

“Staff we spoke with were unable to give examples of learning from incidents, for example, staff told us there had been seven born before arrivals (BBAs) in May 2021 but were unable to identify any learning from these incidents.”

The hospital is run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which also runs King George Hospital in Ilford.

In a statement following the report, BHRUT’s chief executive Matthew Trainer said: “We are sorry that our maternity services have fallen short of the high standards that women and families should expect from Queen’s Hospital.

“The safety of mothers and their children is our top priority and we are working hard to make sure that women can continue to give birth at Queen’s Hospital with confidence.

“We are already making a range of improvements within the service, including new coaching sessions for consultants, appointing a new obstetric clinical lead and a second Head of Midwifery to oversee good governance, to create a better working environment for our staff and ensure that women and babies are afforded the best possible care.”

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter