Newham University Hospital apologises for ‘admin error’ over baby remains storage

The CQC said end of life care at Newham Hospital was inadequate in May 2015

The CQC said end of life care at Newham Hospital was inadequate in May 2015 - Credit: Archant

Human tissue products resulting from pregnancy loss or termination were overlooked and left in a mortuary fridge at Newham University Hospital because of an “administrative error”, the Recorder can reveal.

The shocking revelation about the hospital, run by Barts Health NHS Trust, came to light as the mortuary is currently closed for upgrade works after an independent inspection found it had an “odour” and “old” fridges.

The mortuary’s closure in mid November until next week is to enable a “brand-new temporary storage unit” to be built for the bodies of patients who die at the hospital in Glen Road, Plaistow.

The decision is a result of a “detailed review of the existing mortuary facility” after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) ruled it was not “fit for purpose” and placentas were being inappropriately held in the deceased holding unit in November 2013.

Barts Health Trust has now admitted that in an internal review, fridges were found to be storing “human tissue products” resulting from pregnancy loss or termination “for longer than they should have been”, although it was found this was not the fault of any one individual.

A second report carried out by the CQC in January 2015 found concerns with the condition of the fridges but stated that “bins of ‘product’ [placentas] had been moved since our previous inspection, and arrangements were in place to have these removed regularly by a contractor”.

A spokeswoman for Barts Health Trust said after undertaking its review the hospital “acted immediately” and that “the original wishes of the women concerned” were observed.

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She said: “We are extremely sorry for this error and any distress it has caused.

“We launched an immediate investigation to fully understand how it occurred, and make sure it can never happen again.”

The hospital now operates a transparent policy following national guidelines to ensure women who have miscarried or aborted a child are supported with their wishes for a respectful disposal.

Barts Health Trust said bodies are being taken care of by local undertakers while the mortuary refurbishment takes place.

A CQC spokesman said an “unannounced inspection” took place at the hospital last month and a report will be published in due course.