Maternity services at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle “require improvement” according to health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which has highlighted out-of-date equipment and gaps in staff training as areas for concern.
The CQC carried out an unannounced inspection in January this year, and inspectors have now raised concerns about what they found. Issues also include, according to the report, that staff felt undervalued and reported “dissatisfaction that they had not been involved in changes to working practices”.
However, the report also contained praise for the way the leaders managed the service and also said staff “well together for the benefit of women and people using the service and understood how to protect them from abuse”. In response, hospital leaders said they had taken “immediate action” in the three key areas highlighted by the CQC – though also said they did not feel the rating was “a fair reflection”.
While the service’s overall rating is “requires improvement” as has its safety, it was rated “good” for being well-led. The CQC did not inspect how effective, caring and responsive the service was, while the overall rating for the RVI is still “outstanding”.
Carolyn Jenkinson, CQC’s deputy director of secondary and specialist healthcare, said: “When we visited maternity services at Royal Victoria Infirmary, we found leaders understood and managed the priorities and issues the service faced, however more work needs to be done to address safety concerns across the service.
“For example, inspectors found issues with equipment in the Newcastle Birthing Centre. There was out of date equipment on wards and resuscitation trolleys, also daily checks on emergency equipment weren’t adequate which could put people’s health at risk if their condition deteriorates.
“However, staff worked well together for the benefit of women and people using the service and understood how to protect them from abuse.”
The regulator will now continue to monitor the service to assess whether issues are addressed.
In a statement, a Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust spokesperson said: “Despite the many positive findings in their report published today, maternity services have been rated as requires improvement overall. Well-led has been rated as good and safe has been rated as requires improvement. The overall rating for Royal Victoria Infirmary remains as outstanding.
“There were three areas the CQC highlighted where we must take immediate action, all of which are being addressed, and four areas of outstanding practice were identified in the report for wider learning across the NHS.”
Chief executive Dame Jackie Daniel added: “The safety of women and birthing people and their children is of utmost importance to us all and we will prioritise listening and learning to ensure we can provide the high-quality care our patients deserve. With such positive findings in the CQC report it is difficult to understand the resultant rating which we do not think this is a fair reflection of the maternity service and dedicated care that our teams provide every day.
“The report describes how our staff work well together for the benefit of women and birthing people, how they managed safety well – focussing on the needs of those receiving care – and that everyone was committed to improving services continually.
“We are proud of our team for the dedication, professionalism and caring attitude that they show each day whilst supporting those in our care and that is reflected in other national benchmarking – for example in the CQC’s national maternity survey.”
She also pointed to how the hospital’s maternity service has achieved all ten of the “maternity safety actions” highlighted by NHS Resolution, and continued: “As a trust which also provides tertiary and quaternary (highly specialist) level care to women with complex medical conditions our neonatal and maternal outcomes are amongst the best in the country when benchmarked against peers.”
Dame Jackie continued: “Whatever the rating, our response will be to focus on learning and improvement as it is for any external or internal service review.” She said the hospital trust would “prioritise listening” and continue to work closely with the Newcastle Maternity Voices Partnership to ensure it meets the needs of those using the service.
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