More than 70 midwives are set to join Barts Health hospitals in the coming weeks as the trust seeks to beat a national staffing shortage while making vital improvements to maternity services.
The extra midwives will half the number of vacancies across the maternity departments of three trust hospitals to help address challenges highlighted in an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
We are actively recruiting qualified midwives from overseas, and offering posts to student midwives who trained at The Royal London, Newham and Whipps Cross hospitals. International recruitment will further reduce the vacancy gap.
Meanwhile managers at each hospital review staffing levels daily to ensure mothers-to-be remain safe, offering planned care at another Barts Health hospital or moving midwives between clinical areas within the unit.
Like other NHS trusts, we face skills shortages in key areas. The CQC highlighted the impact of vacancies when inspecting some maternity units in August: at The Royal London hospital and the Barkantine Birth Centre it runs on the Isle of Dogs; at Whipps Cross hospital; and at the Barking Birth Centre run by Newham hospital.
To ensure we continue to keep our patients safe, we took immediate action in response to the CQC to support our teams and address the staffing challenges.
This included temporarily closing the midwife-led Barkantine unit until we complete changes to the birth environment there. Midwife-led care for women with low-risk pregnancies is still offered at the three trust hospitals, and at Barking.
The CQC rated the Barkantine as “inadequate”, both Barking and The Royal London as “requires improvement”, and Whipps Cross as “good” for maternity services. The maternity unit at Newham was previously rated as “requires improvement” last year.
About 15,000 babies are delivered by the Barts Health group of hospitals every year, the largest maternity service in the country. Around 2% of these deliveries take place at the stand-alone birthing units.
Caroline Alexander, Group Chief Nurse, said:
“We are hugely grateful to our midwives and obstetricians for their continued commitment, passion and dedication in looking after women and birthing people at this stressful time.
“There is always more we can do but it was heartening to see the CQC recognise examples of outstanding practice to meet the needs of our local population; like the round-the-clock advice line at The Royal London and the ‘maternity mates’ volunteer scheme at Whipps Cross.
“We are all working closely with staff and patients to ensure that we provide high quality care for the women and babies we see every day.”
- CQC press release
- Newham hospital was not inspected on this occasion, but the CQC visited the service last year and found positive improvements.