Shropshire maternity inspection raises concerns over staffing

Unannounced inspections of the county's maternity units revealed serious concerns over staffing staffing levels – although inspectors have said improvements have now taken place.

Princess Royal Hospital, Telford.
Princess Royal Hospital, Telford.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out the inspections at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) Telford – both managed by Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) – on April 15 and 16.

At both RSH's maternity unit, and PRH's Wrekin Midwife Led Unit, staffing was described as "not adequate", or enough to "keep people safe from avoidable harm".

The findings come as the trust is the focus of an inquiry into its maternity services, with a leaked report revealing a host of harrowing cases and warnings that it could become the NHS's worst maternity scandal.

Hundreds of women have come forward to be part of the inquiry, with the number still increasing.

The April inspections into both units found "the service did not have enough staff with the right qualifications, skills, training and experience to keep people safe from avoidable harm and to provide the right care and treatment".

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The report adds: "On the Wrekin MLU, we found staffing was set to the minimum requirements. The unit had the potential for four birthing women and 12 inpatients, but the current staffing levels were not adequate to meet the needs of the women at all times when the unit was full."

With regards to both hospitals the inspectors said: "An on-call midwife was available for a night time delivery. There were two midwives on call at night for each midwife led unit, at The Princess Royal Hospital and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. However, the on-call midwife would have to provide cover for the MLU and the consultant led unit at The Princess Royal Hospital.

Trust has taken action

"Staff told us they did not always have enough staff to cover on-call night time deliveries. This would mean staff would have to work additional hours to cover this."

Professor Ted Baker, chief inspector of hospitals, said re-inspections had taken place in November, and that the situation had improved – although more work was needed.

He said: “At our current inspection we have found that the trust had taken action as a result of our last inspection in April and that this had resulted in a number of improvements.

"We found that in the maternity service staffing had improved, as had morale and governance. Patients also told us that staff were kind and compassionate but, more work is needed and we will return to carry out further checks on this service.

He added: "We are monitoring the trust extremely closely and continue to work with NHS England and NHS Improvement with regard to the trust. Our monitoring of the trust will include further inspections and we will not hesitate to take further action if needed."

Paula Clark, Interim Chief Executive of SaTH, said they had been working to address issues raised by inspectors.

She said: “We are pleased the CQC has found improvements in our maternity services and patients and families say staff are kind and compassionate.

“Since inspections in April we have appointed 29 new midwives, a new director of midwifery, a new care group director and two new consultants and we will continue to build on these improvements, but we appreciate there is more work still to do."

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