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Latest CQC Inspection Report finds Airedale General Hospital maternity services needing improvement

Findings from the Care Quality Commission's inspection into Airedale General Hospital in West Yorkshire have now been published, identifying several areas that require improvement.

Airedale General Hospital provides key maternity services in the Airedale region with 1781 babies born in the Trust in 2021.

The inspection, which took place in December 2022, focused on maternity services including the antenatal clinic, antenatal and post-natal wards, maternity assessment centre, labour ward and theatres. It involved speaking with 23 staff members, pregnant women and mothers alongside its own review of the environment and patient care records. 

The report states that the maternity service was not to the expected standard and is now rated “requires improvement”. Unsurprisingly, given the challenges the NHS faces nationally, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that there were not enough nursing staff to care for those using its maternity services and, as such, safety was compromised.  

In addition, not all staff had completed the mandatory training in key skills and the NHS Trust wasn’t able to provide the requisite data to evidence training around safeguarding and medicine management.  There were gaps in safeguarding information in handovers between staff, and the staff themselves were not always receiving regular appraisals. The maternity assessment centre had no clear system to risk assess or prioritise patients, and the very important “fresh eyes” policy was not always completed. The environment itself was also criticised as not being compliant with infection prevention and control standards.

These issues are not uncommon to Trusts nationwide and reflect the systemic pressures on the maternity services, through lack of staff, lack of training time and pressures on wellbeing.  

Despite these issues being identified, it was evidenced that the staff worked well together for the benefit of the women and managed medication well. They also learn lessons from reported incidents. 

As a specialist medical negligence solicitor, I've seen time and time again in my casework these key issues identified as the reason why serious errors occur and despite this awareness of issues, Trusts remain in a situation where improvements need to be made but struggle to do so. The pressures on the staff are immense and increased funding is needed for staffing, training and to ease those pressures which can result in life impacting outcomes.  

It's reassuring to see the staff, despite these challenges, put families at the heart of their decisions and the Trust is already making changes. 

Sarah Simpson, Director of Midwifery states: “Although the rating is disappointing, we know our maternity service has a strong background in listening and learning, and most importantly in putting women and their families at the heart of the decisions we make about their care.”

They are also importantly seeking the input from those key to the service - the parents.

Sarah added: “We are very fortunate to have a really engaged community of mums, who want to help us shape the service for them.

"We are hosting a number of events in the coming months and if anyone wants to get involved and share their experiences and ideas they can get in touch via our website or our Airedale midwives Facebook page.”

I would encourage parents to speak up and, in that area, to get in touch with the Trust as requested. I hope that funds become available to provide the necessary support the Trust needs to continue its maternity services safely both for parents and staff.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting families affected by maternity care issues at our dedicated medical negligence section.