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Royal London tightens birthing unit security after risk of 'wrong baby' handed back to new mums

PUBLISHED: 16:17 21 December 2016 | UPDATED: 16:17 21 December 2016

Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel

Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel

Archant

A new security tagging system has been introduced for newborns at the Royal London Hospital's new birthing unit after fears about babies being given back to the wrong mum after birth.

Twins Annabelle and Eleanor Lees with their security tags, born at Royal London December 19, 2016Twins Annabelle and Eleanor Lees with their security tags, born at Royal London December 19, 2016

It follows a report last Thursday from an inspection by the Care Quality Commission which found the security system was “not robust” and had poor compliance to wearing baby name-bands.

The policy assumed the use of an electronic tagging system which was not in use in the hospital, inspectors discovered.

But an investigation this week by the East London Advertiser testing the Whitechapel baby unit security confirms procedures have been tightened up.

A newborn security nametag at Royal London's birthing unitA newborn security nametag at Royal London's birthing unit

We had to be accompanied through two security doors that can only be opened by selected staff with special ‘swipe’ cards and were checked for identity at the reception desk before we could go through to meet some of the new mums.

An upgraded tagging system has been introduced which carries electronic codes identifying each baby with its mother on a security register.

“What the care commission found was some babies didn’t have identity tags on them,” consultant midwife Mary Olusile tells tomorrow’s Advertiser.

consultant midwife Mary Olusile at birthing unit security door entranceconsultant midwife Mary Olusile at birthing unit security door entrance

“The tags were sitting on them in the cots—either put on loosely or parents had taken them off because the ones we were using were quite rigid. Some parents didn’t like them as they might cause sores.”

The hospital has since switched to a less rigid tag which stays on firmer.

“These soft tags were chosen by the mothers,” the consultant midwife explained.

Warning to visitors to the birthing unitWarning to visitors to the birthing unit

“They are put on the baby with numbers on our electronic system matching the number on the mother’s tag.”

The upgrading follows the Car commission raising the security issue in July “as a matter for urgent attention”.

Chief Inspector Prof Sir Mike Richards said in his report last week: “Staffing on maternity wards was sometimes inadequately covered—but most worrying was the lack of a safe and secure environment for newborns.”

Delighted mum Joanna Lees with newborn twins Annabelle (left) and Eleanor just arrivedDelighted mum Joanna Lees with newborn twins Annabelle (left) and Eleanor just arrived

The hospital’s maternity and gynaecology were rated “inadequate”. Also requiring improvement were urgent and emergency services, medical care including older people’s services, surgery, services for children and young people, end-of-life care and outpatients and diagnostic imaging.

Steps have since been taken over baby safety such as the new identity tags, Bart’s NHS Health Trust pointed out.

A trust statement said: “We acted immediately to improve the security of babies at the Royal London.

Young Lees brothers Charlie, 4, and Jacob, 5, look in on their new twin sisters Annabelle and Elranor on day they were bornYoung Lees brothers Charlie, 4, and Jacob, 5, look in on their new twin sisters Annabelle and Elranor on day they were born

“The CQC reports are observations from five months ago—since then we have subjected our procedures to forensic scrutiny.”

Other CQC findings included “preventable errors” in medical care, such as a surgeon leaving an object inside a patient after finishing an operation, a wrong tooth extraction and incorrect medication given to a patient.

But there were also positive findings such as the hospital’s trauma service and Bart’s Trust being internationally recognised as a leader in trauma research.

The emergency department had introduced a ‘Code Black’ protocol for patients who had severe head injuries, the first of its kind in the country.

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