Hospital fined for how it treated the family of a woman who died during childbirth

West Suffolk Hospital will be rebuilt as part of the governments pledge to provide 40 new hospitals by 2030 Picture...

West Suffolk Hospital will be rebuilt as part of the governments pledge to provide 40 new hospitals by 2030 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

West Suffolk Hospital has been fined £2,500 for how it treated the family of a woman who died after complications during childbirth.

The Care Quality Commission, which monitor health services, issued the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Foundation Trust with two £1,250 fixed penalty notices because it had failed to comply with the duty of candour regulations that requires providers to be "open and honest with patients or their families if there is an incident in which they suffer harm".

In a report published on Tuesday morning the CQC said the hospital had failed to notify the woman's family "as soon as reasonably possible" that the incident had occurred.

They also said the trust "did not provide the family with an account of the incident or offer an appropriate apology to them in a timely manner." 

In a statement Fiona Allinson, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said: "Under the duty of candour, all providers are required to be open with patients or their families when something goes wrong or that appears to have caused significant harm.

"Where CQC find evidence that this has not happened, we will take action, as we have done against West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

“We issued two fixed penalty notices following the death of a patient at the trust and their handling of notifying the family in 2018. There was a significant delay in following the duty of candour."

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She added: "The amount of this fine is in no way reflective of the value of the life that was lost but is the maximum amount we can fine an organisation for breaching the duty of candour regulation.

"We will always take action where organisations have failed people and their families, and we will continue to monitor the trust to ensure they have learnt from this and these mistakes aren’t repeated."

Responding to the fines issued by the CQC, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust chief nurse Sue Wilkinson said: "The Trust has accepted two fixed penalty notices from the CQC.

"In this case our communications with a patient's family were not good enough, and we have apologised to them for the way this was handled and the unnecessary distress this must have caused them at a very difficult time. 

"We take the CQC's findings very seriously, and have already taken steps to improve the way we correspond with relatives following a patient's death."

Andy Yacoub, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: "Ultimately, the only opinions that count in response to this news are those of the family at the centre of this story. With that considered, transparency and honesty are incredibly important values we should expect from our local services.

"The duty of candour is fundamental for the maintenance of public trust in the services that care for us and aims to ensure a culture of openness and learning within them."

Mr Yacoub, added: "When things go wrong in services, those affected deserve prompt information and an honest account of what has happened to them, or their loved one.

"In this case, the Care Quality Commission has found the Trust to have failed in its responsibilities, and it must be hoped that necessary learning has been put in place to prevent it from happening again."

The aim of Healthwatch Suffolk is to help and improve health and social care services in the county. 

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