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Review unveils racism in Nottingham maternity services

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A review led by senior midwife Donna Ockenden exposed numerous instances of racist and discriminatory behaviour within Nottingham hospitals’ maternity services, the BBC reported.

The investigation, prompted by concerns over 1,813 cases involving stillbirths, maternal or infant deaths, or instances of harm, has since expanded to include 70 additional cases.

In a letter to the Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust CEO Anthony May, Ockenden detailed numerous accounts of racism and discrimination experienced by service users from various caregivers within the maternity services.

Ockenden provided several instances as examples, including one where a mother recounted having a sheet thrown at her for requesting a change of a bloodied bed. Another mother, who tragically lost her child, reported witnessing a staff member mocking her accent and behaviour, with colleagues joining in laughter.

Additionally, Roma women expressed concerns about being frequently assigned male interpreters, which they find culturally insensitive. Furthermore, they noted that guidance on “safe sleeping” for new mothers was only available in English.

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The maternity lead underscored reports from numerous individuals stating that non-white patients received more disrespectful and dismissive treatment compared to their white counterparts in maternity units.

“I was doing a series of home visits with families and unfortunately again heard about racism, discrimination, lack of kindness and rudeness from staff. I know that there are staff that go into Queen’s, City Hospital, community clinics like the amazing Mary Potter Centre, who give of their all every single day of the week, I know that, I hear that from families too,” Ockenden was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“But there’s still concerns that come from many members of the community that talk to me and my review team that attitudes can be poor and care is simply not good enough.”

In response to these revelations, May acknowledged the seriousness of the findings and expressed the trust’s commitment to addressing the issues promptly.

Plans are underway to implement training programmes focusing on cultural competency, improve interpreting services, and enhance diversity within the maternity workforce, May said.

However, he emphasised the need for comprehensive improvement across all services to ensure inclusivity and eliminate discrimination.

Furthermore, he expressed regret if anyone had encountered racism within their hospitals, emphasising that such behavior is unacceptable and affirming their commitment to fostering a more inclusive environment within the trust.

Additionally, he noted that the trust’s efforts were yielding improvements, as indicated by recent inspections conducted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

NUH continues to hold a rating of “requires improvement” overall, as assessed by the CQC after inspections conducted in April and June.

Ockenden’s review is ongoing and is expected to conclude its findings by September 2025.

Those interested in participating or sharing information can contact, [email protected].

 

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