BOSSES at a crisis-hit Yorkshire NHS trust have been ordered to make urgent improvements to staffing of maternity services following the latest in a string of critical reports.
The Care Quality Commission has issued a formal warning to the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust amid fears of an increased risk of patient safety being jeopardised in the maternity unit at Dewsbury and District Hospital.
Three snap inspections last month found continuing staff shortages which left some women waiting for hours in a corridor before being seen for checks by a doctor.
The trust has until the end of the month to improve services or face further action from the regulator which has sweeping powers that could include ordering restrictions on services.
Hospital bosses say they were experiencing unusually high demand and sickness levels at the time of the inspections and were implementing an action plan to deliver speedy improvements.
But the findings follow a report a year ago by independent experts which identified similar staffing problems, while the regulator also issued a warning in December over staff numbers.
Although patients were found to be receiving safe care, the commission said there was an increased risk of safety being compromised as staffing levels did not always meet the needs of people using services amid evidence of high levels of staff sickness.
These included periodic closures of the delivery suite to new admissions due to lack of staff and problems giving women in labour one-to-one care, leading to midwives being drafted in from elsewhere. Some women attending the triage unit had to wait several hours in a corridor before being seen by doctors.
Jo Dent, regional director of the commission, said: “We will be returning to the hospital to follow up on progress and, when we do, we will expect the trust to be able to demonstrate it has made sustained improvements.
“This warning sends a clear message that Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust needs to address these issues or face serious consequences.
“CQC has a range of legal powers it can use if it is found the required progress has not been made. Where necessary we will use these powers to protect the people who use this service.”
Mid Yorkshire’s interim chief executive Stephen Eames said: “We would like to reassure women that following the latest inspections the CQC found that our patients are receiving safe care.
“This is what our patients have the right to expect and receive and I will not accept anything less from our services.
“We have implemented an action plan to address the areas highlighted by the CQC as in need of improvement. These include making sure that we respond better to high levels of demand for our maternity services and making sure that all our staff are aware of the processes and policies that are in place to address any short staffing issues.
“We also know that there are some gaps in our staffing due to high levels of absences and we have agreed plans to make sure that we address these gaps. We will also be providing additional admin support within the department to make sure that our staff can focus their time on providing care.
“We will make the further changes necessary and continue to work in partnership with the CQC to make sure that our patients receive safe, high quality maternity care.”
Gill Adgie, regional officer for the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “The RCM will continue to work closely with Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and support our members to meet the urgent improvements and recommendations made by CQC in today’s formal warning.
“This would greatly benefit and result in safe maternity care for mothers and babies.”