Healthcare inspectors invited back to review maternity services at Leicester hospitals following damning report

CQC inspectors have been invited to visit Leicester hospitals maternity servicesCQC inspectors have been invited to visit Leicester hospitals maternity services
CQC inspectors have been invited to visit Leicester hospitals maternity services
The NHS Trust says it is committed to improving services.

Healthcare inspectors have been invited back to review maternity services at Leicester’s hospitals.

It comes eight weeks after a report from healthcare watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed there were not enough maternity staff to keep women and their babies safe at Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) and Leicester General Hospital.

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Both hospitals saw their rating for maternity care drop from ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’ after an inspection earlier this year.

A notice from the CQC to the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL), which is responsible for running the city’s hospitals, warned it ‘to focus the trust’s attention on rapidly making the necessary improvements’.

At a recent meeting of Leicester City Council’s Public Health and Health Integration Scrutiny Commission, councillors were told improvements have been made and the CQC has been invited back to visit the services.

Julie Hogg, chief nurse at UHL, told councillors the trust was taking the CQC’s findings seriously and is ‘committed to improving the service on offer’.

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She said: “While we recognise that the service is not yet at the standard that we want it to be, many of the issues identified by the CQC we were aware of and had work in progress on them.

“We believe today the service is in a very different place. We continue to deliver the plans and have invited the CQC back to have a look at the service and to review that progress.”

Among the key concerns raised by the CQC was lack of staff across maternity services. The maternity services at both LRI and the General were ‘regularly understaffed’, and this ‘placed people and their babies at risk’. It also meant staff could not always take their breaks, which ‘affected their well-being, morale and ability to do their job’.

Between August 2022 and January this year, 834 midwifery ‘red flags’ had been reported for the General. A red flag is a warning something may be wrong with midwifery staffing. In the same six months, there were 1,002 red flags at LRI.

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The majority of the red flags at the General were for delays in induced labour. Staff blamed this on staff shortages which meant one-to-one care was not possible at times.

Staff at LRI told the inspection team induced labour was sometimes paused because of staff shortages, and women were given the option of going home.

Ms Hogg told councillors 35 new neonatal nurses have joined UHL since April last year, and 25 new midwives. A further 24 midwives are set to join. A new leadership structure is also in place, including a new director of midwifery.

However, there are still 48 vacancies within midwifery at Leicester’s hospitals and the nine junior doctor roles introduced by the hospital trust to help ease staffing concerns and support consultants have not all been filled. Ms Hogg said there were nationwide struggles with recruitment and the picture at UHL is improving and actually better than at some other trusts, but this remains an area they are struggling to fully resolve.

A pop-up maternity assessment unit has also been set up, she said.

Mrs Hogg added: “It’s better than it was, but it’s not where it needs to be.”

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