Whistleblowers Raise Concerns about Maternity Services at Worcestershire Royal Hospital

A number of concerns raised by whistleblowers at Worcestershire Royal Hospital are causing concern about the safety of the maternity department, particularly midwifery staffing levels, risk and incident reporting and governance.

The Care Quality Commission became concerned about the hospital's maternity services after the inspection team were contacted by four whistleblowers between July and September, who reported that the service was always short-staffed and they were often moved within the department. This prompted an inspection of the hospital’s maternity services in December 2020.

Findings

Inspectors found that staffing levels were lower than planned and that these staffing shortages should have been reported on an incident reporting system, but weren’t because staff didn’t have time and assumed senior staff would do it. Midwives also said that these staffing shortages had a knock-on effect of them being frequently moved within the department.

Midwives reported to inspectors that morale was low and that they felt their concerns and views were not being considered by management. The CQC inspectors also found that not all staff were up-to-date with training and not all safety incidents were reported.

Inspectors did identify areas of good practice including collaboration between different disciplines to give mothers and babies good care and effective implementation of infection prevention and control measures.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust's maternity services has now been moved down from a "good" rating to “requires improvement”, the same as the trust’s overall rating.

Improvements

The trust in charge of Worcestershire Royal Hospital was ordered by the CQC to make a number of improvements, which include engaging with staff for feedback, monitoring staffing levels and reporting and learning from all incidents and near misses.

Chief nursing officer at the trust, Vicky Morris, said, “The safety of mums to be and their babies is, and always has been, the absolute priority for everyone working in our maternity service. Managing maternity services through the Covid-19 pandemic has been extremely challenging for all our staff and we thank them for their commitment during what has been a very difficult period.”

She went on to note that the trust had already been making changes over the staffing issues before the inspection.

"We have run a very successful recruitment campaign for midwives and once the next round of recruitment is completed next week we should have filled all our vacancies and recruited an additional 10 midwives," she said.

COVID-19 has understandably had a profound impact on the NHS, stretching its staff in ways never seen before, but it is important that we do not accept falling standards in the care of pregnant mothers and delivery of babies and we at Lanyon Bowdler echo the words of CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, that “it is crucial that women get the safe and personalised birth experience they are entitled to and that midwifery staff feel supported and valued in order to achieve this. The service must ensure that any risks are identified, and safety incidents are correctly shared and reported to reduce their impact.”

Lanyon Bowdler’s award winning clinical negligence team includes members of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel and AvMA panel members. The team has extensive experience of dealing with birth injury cases. If you have concerns about the maternity care you have received, our team are happy to discuss the matter with you and guide you through the process sensitively. Please contact us.