Staff at a Streatham abortion clinic were “demoralised” by management in a “culture of blame and harassment”, according to a new watchdog report.
The Care Quality Commission rated the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) Streatham ‘requires improvement’ overall following an inspection, while leadership was branded ‘inadequate’ by inspectors.
Responsiveness, safety, and effectiveness all require improvement, according to the report.
However, the caring nature of staff was rated ‘good’ by inspectors, who found workers treated patients “with kindness, dignity and compassion”.
Training was dubbed inconsistent, with members of staff left unchecked for years, while some had not been given mandatory safeguarding training.
Inspectors found that some equipment was “not in good working order”, while security to the treatment room was “not sufficient”.
“None of the doors which had locks were secure and we could easily gain access with no restrictions throughout our inspection,” according to the report.
More than half of patients above 14 weeks waited more than 10 days for a surgical abortion, which is not in line with national guidance.
Inspectors found the relationship between management and staff was poor.
“Most staff we spoke with told us they felt the culture was reactive rather than proactive, with a culture of blame and harassment and this had created an unsupportive and demoralising environment at the centre.
“Staff told us they were unable to express themselves and challenge without fear of retribution.
“Staff believed some conversations they had would be used for ‘self-gain’ or ‘self-importance’ due to certain management styles.
“As one staff member said ‘if you raise concerns then you have to face the consequences. I have learnt to keep quiet’,” according to the report.
However, staff had also reported a culture change after two new managers were hired, whom they found “supportive, accessible and approachable”.
Inspectors found all areas of the clinic were “visibly clean and clutter free”, while staff completed patient records “accurately and stored them safely”.
The clinic treated concerns and complaints seriously and investigated them, according to the report.
Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at BPAS, said: “BPAS has already recognised and acted upon specific concerns raised in the recent CQC report.
“We have put together a comprehensive action plan to restore the clinic to the high standards demonstrated by the 75 BPAS clinics across the country.
“The provision of high-quality care is central to our ethos, and we stand by the CQC’s finding that clients who are treated by BPAS are treated with compassion and kindness, respect, and dignity, and always will be.
“BPAS staff are routinely trained to provide high-quality medical care, safeguard children and vulnerable adults, and in aspects of clinical practice such as infection control.
“Updated processes are in place in Streatham to provide effective management and oversight of staff training.”
The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, an anti-abortion campaign group, criticsed the clinic.
SPUC spokesperson Alithea Williams said: “This clinic, which is commissioned by the NHS to kill thousands of babies a year, cannot even get things like staff training and competency correct. It is unacceptable that women’s safety is being put at risk in this way.
“This is the worst rating we’ve seen a clinic get. When the CQC rates abortion clinics, it asks if they are they safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs, and well-led. In its report the CQC said that the clinic required improvement on safety, effectiveness, and responsiveness, while ‘well-led’ was rated as inadequate.”
“It is not surprising that a clinic that kills thousands of unborn babies a year, especially one that specialises in late-term abortions, should prove a difficult place to work.”