“Serious and significant” concerns have been raised about maternity services at York Hospital by the healthcare regulator.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has this week written to the hospital with concerns about medication management, the availability of essential monitoring equipment and unit closures following a three-day unannounced inspection in October.
York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Simom Morritt called the findings “disappointing” and said the hospital had “an awful lot of work to do in a relatively short space of time” to address the issues and submit an action plan to the regulator.
In March, the CQC told the entire trust it had to make urgent improvements and served it with a warning notice following an inspection.
Inspectors have also been conducting a ‘well-led review’ into the trust in recent weeks, with a report expected in January.
No new concerns of note have been raised about Scarborough Hospital.
Earlier this year, chief nurse Heather McNair said maternity services were facing “unprecedented times”, with staff shortages and increasingly complex births adding to the strain.
The closure of the maternity unit – sometimes for up to 24 hours – is becoming more common, with women being forced to divert to other hospitals which can accommodate them.
At the end of last year, a board report showed that a whistleblower had raised concerns that maternity services at the trust were “so unsafe as to be putting women and babies lives in danger every day”.
Mr Morritt said at a board meeting on Wednesday: “I think all of us recognise that we do have challenges in maternity and I think if we’re being honest with ourselves, we probably didn’t acknowledge and recognise that they were quite as significant as those identified by the CQC.”
The use of midwives as scrub practitioners and fire drills were also raised as concerns.
Care group director of midwifery Sue Glendenning said staff were upset by the news, with one matron in tears.
“It just doesn’t feel like we’ve got enough resource,” she said.
“From what I’m reading and what I’m seeing, the patients didn’t actually raise any specific concerns. Generally they think, and are, getting good care. It’s around the governance and how we provide that assurance [to the CQC].”
Non-executive director Steven Holmberg said the same issues kept cropping up in CQC reports.
Lorraine Boyd, another non-executive director, added: “Maternity has been sending out distress signals for some time.
“The last few days have seen a period of intense reflection by everybody.”
Board chair Alan Downey said: “This is absolutely not about conducting a witch hunt to criticise people for shortcomings within the maternity department, but we do need to get on top of the shortcomings the CQC have identified.”