The safety of some maternity services at a Leicester NHS trust being rated as inadequate by the health watchdog is “worrying but not unsurprising”, a law firm representing patients has said.
Moosa-Duke Solicitors, based in the city, represents several families and individuals in maternity negligence claims against the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
The trust saw the safety rating of two of its sites – the Leicester Royal Infirmary and Leicester General Hospital – downgraded to “inadequate” on Wednesday by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The trust said it is already making improvements, but two directors at Moosa-Duke said care failings had caused “irrevocable harm” and concerns raised by families had been “batted away”.
Navdeep Kainth and Gemma Lewis, both directors and senior solicitors at Moosa-Duke, called for “public attention” on the trust to bring about “swift and long-lasting change”.
They said: “The latest inspection reports for University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust make for worrying, but unsurprising reading.
“As a firm, over recent years we have been monitoring and analysing the maternity cases we are instructed on and have seen trends emerging in the failures of care received by mothers and babies.
“One overriding theme is that mums are not being listened to properly.
“Legitimate concerns are simply batted away and dismissed as ‘being entirely normal’, particularly in cases involving first-time parents.
“We have seen instances where a mum has sought help from the maternity units in Leicester’s hospitals only to be turned away because they have failed to recognise the severity of the issue.
“In many cases, this has led to irrevocable harm to the baby and mum and in some cases tragically the baby was lost.
“A large proportion of the clients that we see involve South Asian or black mothers.
“Surely, Leicester’s maternity services need to be safe for everyone. We are often left asking whether the ethnicity of [the] mum is significant.
“We represent families who are concerned that they received substandard care due to a lack of experience on the part of those looking after them.
“Substandard care that involves incorrect readings of CTGs, insufficient monitoring and poor communication between staff.”
The CQC said there had been a “deterioration in the level of care” provided in maternity services at two of the trust’s three maternity sites, the Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) and Leicester General Hospital (LGH).
Short staffing, risk assessments and medicine storage were highlighted, with staff being “pushed to the brink” and at times unable to take breaks due to demand.
It inspected the hospitals in the “safe” and “well-led” categories earlier this year.
The LRI and LGH also saw its well-led and overall maternity rating downgraded from “good” to “requires improvement”.
A third site, St Mary’s Birth Centre, remains “good” in terms of safety and overall but saw its “well-led” rating drop.
The trust still requires improvement, with the CQC issuing it a warning notice to ensure improvements are made.
Responding to the CQC report, it said it was already making improvements, including hiring more midwives, but acknowledged there was “much more to do”.
Julie Hogg, chief nurse at the trust, said: “Improving maternity services is a key priority and many of the highlighted challenges had already been identified before the inspection with plans in place to tackle them.
“However, we take the report and its findings incredibly seriously and are using them to drive further improvements for women and birthing people.
“While we know there is more to do, we are committed to providing safe, high-quality and compassionate care and are encouraged that the reports highlight our hardworking staff and the actions being taken to ensure a culture of safety and openness.”
The trust has been approached for comment in response to the concerns raised by Moosa-Duke.