Maternity campaigners write to CQC raising concern over standard of inspections
Campaigners have raised concerns over the standard of maternity inspections taking place across the country.
Kayleigh Griffiths, her husband Colin, and Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton have submitted a range of queries to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), after looking at the organisation's inspections.
The CQC is the body responsible for assessing the country's health services and is currently carrying out focused inspections of all maternity services across England, which have not been reviewed since 2021.
The parents previously campaigned to investigate maternity services at the county's hospitals, eventually leading to the Ockenden Inquiry, which uncovered shocking failings in the standards of care provided at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust.
Their efforts came after their daughters, Pippa Griffiths and Kate Stanton-Davies, both died avoidably, due to errors at the trust.
They have now raised a series of questions with the CQC, ranging from warnings over inspections taking place, to contradictory statements, and misleading presentation on reports.
The CQC's chief executive, Ian Trenholm, has responded, saying the issues raised are being "taken seriously" and the trust is looking at all the points highlighted.
The letter prepared by the parents questions why out of 104 inspection reports they reviewed, 74 had involved 'announced' inspections – where trusts were aware inspectors would be attending.
They said: "This gives time for hospitals to prepare, which will not lead to a true picture relating to safety."
They have also questioned the length of time dedicated to the inspections, asking: "The length of inspection varied across the country and was dependent on whether other areas of the hospital/trust were being inspected alongside, however, most inspections took place on only one day.
"Given the significant challenges maternity services are facing and that the majority of your visits were pre-announced, this is not sufficient time to get an accurate and deep understanding of the state of a service."
A significant issue highlighted in the letter is how ratings are presented in the CQC reports accessible by the public.
The parents provide the example of one hospital trust where when people click on the website section to look at the maternity rating, they are taken to a report which lists the 'overall' trust rating first.
People are presented with a report which says the overall service rating is 'good', as are the judgements for 'safety' and how 'well led' services are.
But when they scroll further down, the report shows the maternity service, and its safety, are listed as 'requires improvement'.
In their letter to the CQC the parent state: "In our review of your reports there were 57 instances of the frontpage erroneously showing an ‘overall rating for this service'. This is dangerously misleading and leads us to question the CQC’s commitment to honesty, transparency, and patient safety."
Other issues highlighted include where safety is rated as 'inadequate' at trusts, yet the organisation's overall rating is higher.
The letter states: "If, as is identified in our report, a service’s safety is rated as 'inadequate' how can the overall rating only be 'requires improvement'?
"You are stating categorically that a service is not safe – and yet it only 'requires improvement' rather than being 'inadequate'."
Responding to the concerns Ian Trenholm, the CQC’s chief executive, said: “We have received correspondence from Kayleigh and Colin Griffiths and Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton setting out some very detailed concerns about our current maternity inspection programme.
"The issues described in that letter are being taken seriously and we are looking into all points that have been raised. I will be engaging with the families directly to provide a full and thorough response as soon as possible.
“Understanding the experiences of families using maternity services is both essential to delivering good care and has helped to significantly strengthen our approach to inspecting maternity services.
"Good regulation, like good care, is responsive and strives to achieve the best it can for both people using services and providers, which is why it is so important that we listen when concerns are raised.”