County Durham and Darlington maternity services have improved but there’s still ‘a need for more experienced midwives’, inspectors say

Previously “inadequate” maternity services in County Durham and Darlington have improved, Care Quality Commission inspectors said, but more needs to be done – with NHS bosses criticised for staffing levels, training rates and alarming record-keeping absences.

The CQC’s inspection team visited the units at University Hospital of North Durham and Darlington Memorial Hospital between January 23 and 25 this year. This followed an inspection in March 2023 which saw the previously “good”-rated services slammed after inspectors found a “deterioration in care”.

Since then, improvements have been made, with the CQC team praising “visible and approachable” leadership, improvements to the management of incidents and staffing and recruitment. However, issues such as not always having enough experienced midwives or the right “skill mix” on the unit on a giving shift remained, the inspectors said.

Criticisms in the report included that the service at UHND “still did not make sure everyone completed mandatory training and essential skills and drills” – though this had improved. Incident reporting, shared learning on the wards and safeguarding knowledge had improved too though, the CQC said.

In response, Noel Scanlon, executive director of nursing and midwifery at the County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust which runs both hospitals, said NHS leaders were pleased with the report, but aware that there was work to be done – and that an action plan was in place.

The overall CQC rating for both hospitals has improved from requires improvement to good, while the NHS trust as a whole remains rated as good overall.

Linda Hirst, CQC deputy director of operations for the north, said: “When we inspected maternity services at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, we were pleased to find the trust had made improvements since our inspection in March last year. Leaders were now more visible and approachable for staff, and a new director of midwifery had been appointed, therefore we expect to see further improvements next time we visit.

“We found improvements with the management of incidents. For example, we reviewed four serious incidents and found the service now implemented much better action plans in response to investigating findings. This ensured lessons were learnt and women, people using the service and their babies were receiving safer care as a result.”

Ms Hirst said staffing and recruitment had improved, but that the need for there to be enough “senior, experienced midwives on labour wards […] needs to be addressed as a priority”. She added: “We did have some other areas of concern including timely inductions of labour to meet people’s needs, which weren’t always happening at either hospital. Although oversight of these delays had improved, new processes put in place to improve them weren’t fully embedded yet.

“Staff had clearly worked hard since our previous inspection to improve the quality of care they were delivering to people, and they know where further improvements are needed so people receive the high standard of care they deserve. We will continue to monitor the trust, including through future inspections, to ensure the trust builds on the improvements it has already made, and further changes are made and embedded.”

Mr Scanlon said: “We are pleased that the latest CQC report recognises the improvements we have put in place across our maternity services since the previous inspection. The new rating is a positive step forward on our continuing improvement journey.

” Our dedicated teams have implemented robust measures to enhance the safety, quality, and experience of our maternity services. While we recognise this progress, we remain fully aware that there is still work to be done and have already begun to deliver on an action plan with defined timescales and measurable improvements.”

He said that the trust was committed to “continually strive for the highest standards” and added: “We will continue to listen to feedback from patients, families, and colleagues to identify areas where we can make further improvements. Our aim is to ensure that every family feels supported, empowered, and safe throughout their maternity journey.”

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View news Source: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/health/county-durham-darlington-maternity-services-29011227

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