THE chief executive of Basildon Hospital has apologised after admitting bosses were too slow to spot and deal with issues raised in a critical watchdog report.

Clare Panniker, boss at Basildon, Southend and Broomfield Hospital, spoke as the Care Quality Commission rated Basildon Hospital’s maternity unit as inadequate.

Responding to criticisms of a long-standing poor staff culture, she said: “We have, in the past, done team building work.

“These things can improve and deteriorate again and we were not quick enough to notice that there was a gradual deterioration.

“I don’t think there’s been a dramatic or sudden change with our staff culture.

“We probably were guilty of not acting quickly enough to prevent some of the issues that have arisen here and we would like to apologise for that.

“It’s really important for us that when women hear and know about this report that they still know our unit is a safe place to come and have their babies and maternity care and that our staff feel supported enough to give the best treatment.”

She stressed: “New leadership is in place which is important for a fresh look at the service [and] we have invested in 29 additional midwives, two new consultants, created three more beds in labour ward and four more post natal beds.”

Ms Panniker said one of the main issues the unit had faced was an increase in the “complexity” of the women, adding: “And I think if there’s an issue, it’s probably we were a bit slow to react to that.”

Ms Panniker said all midwives and doctors have gone through a special training programme and also been assessed in cardiotocography - a technique of recording a baby’s heartbeat and contractions during pregnancy. She said this allows first signs that anything is going wrong to be picked up quickly.

Ms Panniker said the good results and lack of complaints speak for themselves and will reassure mums the unit is safe.

She added: “I think there are a couple of things that are important, which mums know.

“When you look at our data about how we compare to other maternity units, we are below expected (levels) about babies which come to significant harm or die.

“The number of complaints have actually decreased and are below average, so I think with the work we’ve done and fact our data shows us we don’t have a significant problem and with all focus we’re giving it, I think women can be confident they will get the best care.”