MIDWIVES are working with lawyers on potential legal action against hospital bosses, after staff on the maternity ward were “overexposed” to nitrous oxide.

Staff members at Basildon Hospital, represented by the Royal College of Midwifery (RCM), have “suffered a variety of symptoms” following the exposure, according to the union.

Multiple tests at the hospital in June 2021 returned recordings of excess nitrous oxide - the gas used in Entonox - above the legal limit of 1,000 parts per million of the gas.


One test returned a shocking result of almost 3,000; however staff were not told for 16 months.

The union says members are in talks with lawyers over potential claims against Mid and South Essex NHS Trust.

“We have been approached by midwife members who have suffered a variety of symptoms they attribute to exposure to Entonox,” a union spokesman said.

“Basildon hospital investigations have revealed the exposure levels in the maternity departments were over the legal limit.

“We are investigating these issues with our lawyers to support our members in potential claims; and have reported the issues to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).”

A HSE spokesman confirmed the government work safety regulatory body was investigating.

Bosses at the trust have since apologised for failing to notify staff until after questions were raised when filtration units were installed on the ward in October of last year.

One midwife, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “They were not upfront about the Entonox and so we find it hard to trust what they are saying now.”

“Scavenger” devices have since been installed to purify the ward’s air, but a briefing in December revealed nitrous oxide levels were still too high, the BBC has reported.

A spokesman for the trust said: “We have followed all of the expert advice provided to us to deal with the issue of nitrous oxide in the air at our maternity unit at Basildon Hospital.

“Significant improvements have been made and it is perfectly safe for service users and their families to continue to use the maternity unit as normal. We have taken action to resolve the situation and an investigation is under way.

“Support and advice is being offered to our staff. Mitigations have been put in place, based on clinical recommendations, and we are continuing to keep our staff informed.”