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The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has dropped the rating for maternity services at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) from ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’, although the trust overall remained good.
The trust runs Andover War Memorial Hospital, Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital and Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester.
Inspectors made an unannounced visit to the maternity unit in November after concerns were raised by staff whistleblowers as well as complaints were made by patients.
They found that the service did not have enough nursing and midwifery staff to keep women and babies safe.
A CQC spokesman said: ‘Several staff members mentioned the unit sometimes felt unsafe due to staffing numbers and the numbers of women on the unit.
‘Midwives had been going above and beyond to work in extremely challenging circumstances and spoke of low staffing levels and exhaustion.’
The report also raised concerns that managers ‘were not always able to manage effectively.’
Other issues included a failure to implement recommendations to reduce the additional risk of Covid-19 for women from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and staff did not always identify and treat sepsis in line with national guidance.
However, the inspectors did find that there was ‘an inclusive culture which ensured family or partners could support women throughout their pregnancy journey.’
Amanda Williams, CQC’s head of hospital inspection, said: ‘During our inspection of maternity services at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, both hospitals we visited were incredibly busy and we saw the impact that staff shortages were having on the service.
‘Staff were seen to be working above and beyond the call of duty and some staff told inspectors that there were not enough midwifery staff to keep people safe and that they were exhausted.
‘We were also concerned to see that staff did not always treat sepsis in a timely way or follow national guidance.
‘This was raised as an urgent issue to the trust and it has now put an action plan in place to address our concerns.’
Julie Dawes, chief nurse at HHFT, said that the trust had been forced to redeploy staff from normal workplaces as well as suspend training and education to focus on patient care in the past 18 months.
She said: ‘Safe and high quality maternity care is a priority for us and as such this is a disappointing report to receive.
‘Our maternity teams continue to work tirelessly to support the women in their care and we are working hard to implement the CQC’s recommendations.’