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West Suffolk Hospital's maternity services improving - but CQC inspectors say further work is required

Maternity services at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds have improved - but further improvements are required.

Those are the findings from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in a new report.

A focused inspection of maternity services at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust by the CQC took place in April, assessing whether it had met the conditions of a warning notice CQC previously served regarding safety risks to patients.

West Suffolk Hospital
West Suffolk Hospital

Inspectors found the trust had improved all issues identified on the previous inspection which led to the warning notice, but further improvements were needed across the service.

Following the inspection, the rating for the maternity service remained requires improvement. The trust’s overall rating is unchanged by this inspection. It remains requires improvement.

Philippa Styles, CQC’s head of hospital inspection, said: “At our last inspection we saw a service that wasn’t delivering the standard of care that women and babies should have been receiving.

"I am pleased that at this inspection the trust has responded to the issues we raised in the warning notice and women are receiving a much safer service.

“At our previous inspection we found that women were not consistently asked if they were at risk of domestic abuse. We saw improvements in this area and the staff now knew how to identify adults and children at risk of harm and worked with other agencies to protect them.

“Leaders ran services well and supported staff to develop their skills. Staff understood the service’s vision and values, and how to apply them in their work and as a result all staff were focused on the needs of women receiving care.

“However, the trust has more work to do in some areas. The service was frequently short staffed and had to rely on calling in staff from other areas to cover the labour suite and maternity ward. Staff told us these shortages impacted their welfare and at times they didn’t feel listened to when they told senior leaders about these problems.

“In addition, the service didn’t have a nationally recognised tool in place to assess women meaning staff relied on their own decision making when triaging women meaning outcomes could vary from clinician to clinician.

“The trust knows where we expect to see improvements and we will continue to monitor the trust, including through future inspections.”

Following the inspection, CQC told the trust it must make the following improvements:

  • All medical and anaesthetic staff must meet mandatory training compliance levels;
  • The trust must implement a tool to safely triage women in the maternity day assessment unit and labour suite triage;
  • The trust must complete emergency drills in a baby abduction scenario;
  • The trust must ensure appropriate staffing levels within the service;
  • Equipment must be serviced within its due date;
  • Governance arrangements must comply with national recommendations and ensure oversight of local audits.

Inspectors also found an example of outstanding practice at the maternity service:

  • The maternity service had a keen focus on quality improvement (QI) and had multiple projects ongoing with demonstrable service improvements being seen. Staff throughout the service were engaged with QI and contributed to the projects.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust head of midwifery Karen Newbury said: "We are very grateful for the very supportive approach of the CQC, and for their recognition of the many improvements that we have made, and continue to take forward, even during one of the most difficult periods ever for the NHS."

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