Failings at Dorset hospital that handed baby to the “wrong mother” were highlighted before incident

A MOTHER was handed the WRONG baby after giving birth at a Dorset hospital.

The University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust (UHD) has confirmed the “isolated” incident happened at Poole Hospital in September last year.

It said safety procedures had since been reviewed and changes made.

“We are investigating an incident in our maternity unit in September 2023 in which a baby was handed to the wrong mother,” a spokesperson said.

“We deeply regret any distress that was caused and are committed to providing full support to the affected families.

“The safety of our parents and babies is the highest priority. We have fully reviewed all our safety procedures and we want to reassure you this was an isolated incident.”

The incident came after a report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in March last year rated Poole Hospital as ‘requiring improvement’ – highlighting failings in the maternity unit.

“The service was previously rated good, but the latest inspection found there had been deterioration in the quality of its safety and leadership arrangements,” the report said.

“CQC also took enforcement action by serving the trust a warning notice regarding its processes to summon help in an emergency in Poole Hospital’s maternity service.

“The trust has taken action since the inspection to address this risk.”

However, the action did not prevent the wrong baby being handed to a mother later that year.

Cath Campbell, CQC deputy director of operations in the south, said at the time: “Standards of care and treatment had deteriorated in the services we inspected at University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust.

“This was particularly evident in Poole Hospital’s maternity service, where care and treatment fell below standards people have a right to expect.

“Behind this was a staffing shortage, and risk management which needed strengthening.

“While NHS services and those in the wider care sector continue to struggle to recruit and retain staff, leaders must ensure this doesn’t lead to people being exposed to avoidable risks.

“However – despite the pressure they faced – staff ensured the maternity service was clean, and that medicines were managed well.

“Medical care and surgery at Poole Hospital and the Royal Bournemouth Hospital also experienced staffing shortages that undermined people’s safety.”

Failings at the maternity unit identified by the March 2023 inspection included:

  • There were not always enough staff to keep women and babies safe.
  • Systems and processes for managing risk were not always effective, especially in maternity triage.
  • Maintenance of the environment, especially regarding the emergency call bell systems, were not adequate to maintain people’s safety.
  • Managers did not always investigate incidents thoroughly or in a timely way.
  • The maternity leadership team was new and did not always have enough capacity or experience.

Speaking after the ‘wrong baby’ incident was revealed Lorraine Tonge, director of midwifery at the trust, said: “We deeply regret any distress that was caused and have reached out to the mother to offer her support.

“We would urge her to get back in touch with us to assist us in our investigation.

“The safety of our parents and babies is the highest priority and we are committed to providing full support to the affected families.”

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