Nottingham University Hospitals Trust is off track in its efforts to meet midwifery recruitment targets as part of plans to improve an ‘inadequate’ rating for its maternity services.
Staffing is said to be a “significant challenge” in the department, at a time it is trying to improve following a damning report by inspectors the Care Quality Commission.
In 2020 the commission rated materity services as ‘inadequate’ across the trust. It followed dozens of baby deaths and injuries, some of which are now under review.
Despite a recruitment drive, new figures show that by March 2022 the trust is likely to be short of around 41 midwives.
The trust said its recruitment target was originally set at 61 full-time midwives in two categories of experience – but this was later raised to 73 to accommodate extra training for existing staff.
A spokesperson said the trust has recruited 62 new midwives from November 2020 to December 2021 – but it will still be around 41 members of staff short due to some staff retiring and being promoted to other roles.
Danni Burnett, Deputy Chief Nurse, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), spoke at a Nottinghamshire County Council health scrutiny committee meeting on January 3.
The CCG is one of a number of organisations which commission or monitor hospital services locally.
Ms Burnett told the committee: “They were expecting a large number of midwives to start over this quarter four period, but at that point, they were not on track to achieve where they wanted to be at the end of March.
“It was the end of March 2022 we were looking at the 73 whole time equivalents.
“It has been a significant challenge with the current situation. We are not anticipating that they will achieve where they wanted to be.”
As part of the recruitment plans, the University of Nottingham said last year it had increased the number of places on its midwifery training courses to try to help the trust solve staffing shortages.
But the trust said a national shortage of midwives combined with a turnover of staff through promotions, retirements and relocations, meant it was still recruiting.
Councillor Matt Barney (Con) said the committee was promised the shortfall would go from 80 to 30 by November 2020.
He said: “We would expect by now to see a shortfall of around 30 of frontline midwife staff.”
A Nottingham University Hospitals Trust spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work hard on our midwifery recruitment campaign, encouraging skilled and talented staff to join our services every month. We have a great team at Nottingham Hospitals and I’d encourage anyone who is interested to take a look at the career opportunities on our website.”
In the latest in a series of cases linked to maternity, last month the trust paid out a £2.8m settlement to the Hawkins family, whose baby daughter Harriet was born dead in 2016.
The NHS CCG and NHS England are also carrying out their own review into “maternity incidents, complaints and concerns” at the trust, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2022.