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A London hospital investigated after a series of maternal deaths has made “significant improvements” in safety but needs to make further progress, the NHS watchdog said today.

Homerton hospital’s maternity department was served with a “requirement notice” to improve learning from mistakes, and continues to be rated overall as “requires improvement”, the Care Quality Commission said.

Inspectors returned to the hospital, in Hackney, last October and November after criticising it last August following the deaths of five women between July 2013 and January 2015. Not all women had died at the Homerton but the deaths sparked concerns and fuelled a whispering campaign by a secretive group called the Unhappy Midwives.

The last fatality happened in January last year when Estherline Caulker, 39, died after London Ambulance paramedics failed to realise the seriousness of her condition and brought her to the Homerton rather than taking her to the nearest A&E when she collapsed at Kensal Rise station. Her daughter died two months later.

Today’s report said the Homerton, which handles about 6,000 births a year, including to high-risk mothers, need to make further improvements to ensure it provided safe and well-led care to mothers and babies.

It said the hospital had addressed many of the requirements to improve the welfare of the mothers and babies and to improve cleanliness and infection control.

Safety improvements included a new system of escalating emergencies and training staff how to spot deteriorating patients. However “robust observational checks” of babies were still not in place.

The CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: “Over the past three years, there have been some tragic cases at Homerton University Hospital and I extend my deepest sympathy to those families.  

“On our last inspection, we identified a number of issues, and we told the trust that urgent action must be taken to address these concerns and minimise the risks to mothers and babies.

“I am pleased to report that we have found some real improvements in the care and welfare of women using maternity services, and in the standard of cleanliness and infection control. I expect the trust to build upon this progress and take further action to improve.”

Homerton chief executive Tracey Fletcher said: “Whilst we are moving in the right direction, we also recognise that we still have more work to do in areas such as strengthening our governance protocols and embedding good practice. We will continue to… make further improvements which benefit our mothers and babies.”

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