Homerton Hospital rejects cover-up claim over maternity deaths

homerton hospital maternity ward david holt

Serious concerns have been raised over the maternity care at Homerton Hospital. Photograph: David Holt

Homerton Hospital has rejected a claim of a cover-up over its refusal to disclose the dates of the deaths of five women who had received care from its maternity unit.

Healthcare campaigners have called for greater “honesty and transparency” from the hospital, after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted last year revealed the deaths of 12 women with links to its maternity unit since 2006.

The hospital refused to release details of five of the women, saying that although they had received early antenatal care at the hospital, they were under the care of other NHS organisations when they died.

Last year NHS England was called in to assist with an investigation into Homerton’s maternity unit, following a sequence of four deaths within eight months.

Healthcare campaigner Christine Papalabropoulos subsequently submitted a number of FOI requests to Homerton Hospital, and found that 12 women who had been overseen by Homerton staff had died.

Papalabropoulos has been campaigning for greater health care rights since her 23-year-old daughter died in 2009, following inadequate care from an NHS hospital and out-of-hours GP service.

“I picked up something wasn’t quite right up there in Homerton and put in FOI requests to find out more,” she told the Hackney Citizen. 

Large cluster

Papalabropoulos believes that revealing the dates of the said five deaths might reveal they all occurred in a short period – pushing the hospital’s maternity death figures above accepted levels.

“I suspect they are reluctant to disclose the dates because doing so would reveal a large cluster of deaths in a short space of time,” she said.

Mark Purcell, a spokesperson for Homerton Hospital, said these five women had received early antenatal care from Homerton, but were under the care of other NHS organisations when they died.

“We strongly refute any allegation of covering up information,” he said. “These women were not our patients and we cannot volunteer any details about them.

“Information about all maternal deaths in London is recorded and held by another organisation, the London Strategic Clinical Networks.”

More transparent

Papalabropoulos is urging Homerton’s medical chiefs to be more transparent about deaths and critical incidents.

“There needs to be more honesty and transparency within the maternity department,” she said.

“They must show the public they are learning from these deaths, dealing with any problems with management and listening to midwives when they speak up.”

Sheila Adam, Chief Nurse at Homerton, said: “Homerton’s maternity department has been under intense scrutiny by a number of agencies for the past 18 months.

“During that time the department has been the subject of three visits by Care Quality Commission inspectors; a review of four of the maternal deaths searching for common themes by the London Clinical Senate of NHS England; and a review by the City & Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group which continues to work with our clinicians on recommendations and actions resulting from these various visits and reviews.

“There is still much to learn and we recognise that sometimes the maternity department can become very busy.

“But in the past 10 years, over 60,000 babies have been born to over 50,000 women (we have substantial numbers of multiple births), and hundreds of premature and sick babies have been saved who would certainly have died only a few years ago.”