Maternity services in Nottingham are expected to still be graded as ‘inadequate’ when a healthcare watchdog publishes its latest inspection report into the city’s hospitals.
Maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre, were first given the rating following a 2020 inspection.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) returned in March this year and raised concerns over the triage service – where pregnant women are advised and assessed – but did say some improvements had been made.
But now, the trust’s new chair, Nick Carver, has said he does not expect the ‘inadequate’ rating to change when a new report and rating is published in full by the commission.
And the trust’s director of midwifery said while it would be “disappointing” if the service remained inadequate, she reiterated it was a “long-term plan which isn’t going to be fixed overnight”.
Mr Carver and trust director of midwifery Sharon Wallis spoke during a health scrutiny committee meeting at Nottingham City Council on May 19.
“Our belief is that the overall rating will not probably move, but there will be changes in the narrative,” he said.
“I think it will be really surprising if the narrative did not note the significant improvements made by Sharon [Wallis].
“But the feature of CQC reports tends to be that they need assurance over a period of time. We are not anticipating dramatic change.”
Debbie Graham, lead midwife for an NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) review into the service, also announced the number of families who had contacted the review team to share their experiences had reached 590.
The review is looking into ‘maternity incidents, complaints and concerns’ dating back to 2006.
The review has faced controversy in recent months. Some families affected by baby deaths and injuries which occurred at the hospitals said they had lost faith in the process and called for experienced midwife Donna Ockenden to take over.
Sharon Wallis, Trust Director of Midwifery, also spoke during the meeting and told councillors that staffing continues to be the “biggest challenge” at the maternity service.
The trust currently has a midwife vacancy of 65 whole-time equivalents.
But she said 43 midwives, including some from overseas, had been offered roles at the trust. Student midwives are also being offered automatic posts and a financial incentive to join.
Ms Wallis added: “We have made errors in the past and we are in the position now that we have the level of scrutiny that we do, and we absolutely appreciate that.
“But it’s hard to attract staff, Leicester, Derby or King’s Mill might be a more attractive option.”
Mr Carver added: “Let’s be very clear, for some people in Nottingham, they have not felt they have been well served in terms of their health service, particularly with maternity.
“Equally, it is important we recognise that most people have, in the past and today, provide care of which they and us can be proud of.
“I think you will see this morning that the trust is improving maternity services, you will also see there is much still to be done.
“There is a desire that you have and we have to go quicker. I commit to us as a trust operating in an open and transparent way.
“I have just one request that in addition to holding us to account, you also enable us to celebrate that which is good.”
Councillor Georgia Power (Lab), who chairs the health scrutiny committee, has written a second letter to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid raising concerns about the trust.
She said after the meeting: “Our ongoing frustration is the pace of improvement, to the extent that we have written to Sajid Javid and the CQC.
“What I am really keen to see is that CQC report come out, because they are the experts.
“It’s disappointing that they don’t expect that rating to go up. But I would rather that they are honest with us, one of the issues we’ve had in the past is that there hasn’t been the transparency to enable us to scrutinise the service.”