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4 March 2011, 14:17 | Updated: 9 March 2011, 17:38
An Essex hospital has been told to make immediate improvements to ensure the safety of women giving birth, a regulator has said.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) issued a warning to Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust over services at Queen's Hospital in Romford.
Inspectors found the trust was not taking all proper steps'' to ensure women's safety, according to a CQC statement.
The unit was often understaffed and "some staff were carrying out tasks for which they did not feel appropriately skilled, putting women and babies at risk.''
The hospital was also not following some of its own guidelines for planning and providing safe care, such as the time frame for moving women from antenatal to the labour ward.
"Some equipment necessary for the safe care of women and their babies, such as machines for monitoring contractions, was found to be unavailable, poorly maintained or not working,'' the statement added.
A full report has been written by inspectors, but is unavailable to the public for the next couple of weeks.
A CQC spokesman said the report needs to go through a legal process, which includes the trust being able to challenge its findings. The CQC has told trust managers it must address all its concerns by mid-April. Failure to comply may lead to prosecution or restriction of services.
Averil Dongworth, chief executive of the trust, said: "We are aware that there have been issues with maternity, and are already working to improve the service and address the areas which have been mentioned.
"The experience that women have during labour, and the care they receive, is extremely important, and in the past we have not always got that right.
"We accept the CQC's report, and will be using it to drive forward the changes that are already taking place. ''She said services were also being redesigned to make care safer and improve women's experiences.