Following an unannounced comprehensive inspection of Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s Maternity Services in June, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has downgraded the service from ‘Good’ to ‘Requires Improvement’. Safety was downgraded from good to inadequate (the lowest ranking), and its effectiveness, responsiveness and whether it is well-led were moved from good to requiring improvement. The CQC said it had ‘serious concerns’ about the hospital’s maternity services and added that it urgently needed to improve after receiving concerns about how the department was managing with low staffing.
Inspectors say they found that:
- Staff did not always provide effective care and treatment. Managers monitored the effectiveness of the service but did not always make sure staff were competent.
- Staff did not adequately support women to breastfeed.
- The service did not always have the facilities to respect women’s privacy and dignity.
- Staff did not always help women understand their conditions or take account of their individual needs.
- People could not always access the service when they needed it and did have to wait too long for treatment.
- Leaders had the systems for effective governance processes but not all risks were reported.
- There were insufficient processes in place to assess the risk of and prevent and control the spread of infections
- The service did not always manage safety incidents well and lessons learned were not always shared.
On a more positive note, inspectors praised the hard work of staff in the department and said they treated women with compassion and kindness, taking account of their needs and providing them with emotional support when needed.
Ann Ford, CQC, director of CQC’s North Network, said: ‘We inspected the maternity services at Blackpool Victoria Hospital as we had concerns about the quality of services being provided. We weren’t assured that women and babies were receiving safe care and treatment. During our Inspection we found that leaders weren’t always visible and approachable for patients and staff. There was also a clear disconnect between the senior leaders and staff on the wards which was having an impact on people’s care. It was concerning that there wasn’t always enough midwifery staff to care for women and keep them safe. This was a significant risk to women receiving timely and appropriate care and treatment, exposing them to the risk of harm. We found that some women were waiting for prolonged periods of for induction of labour. There was no discussion as to how to reduce the potential risks associated with delayed inductions or how the service was risk assessing women and their babies while they were waiting. Records weren’t clear, up-to-date or easily available to all staff providing care. We also found there weren’t good processes ensuring staff had access to in date and safely checked equipment, or to safely store medicines which could expose women and babies to the risk of harm. However, staff were working hard and treated women with compassion and kindness. They took account of their individual needs and provided them with emotional support when they needed it. Women gave positive feedback about the service.
Following our inspection, we immediately informed the trust leadership team of our findings. The trust has submitted an action plan and told us they will be taking action to make urgent improvements including enhancing the maternity workforce and updating the induction of labour policy to include managing delays in the induction process. We will monitor the trust closely to ensure that significant and immediate changes are made to keep women and babies safe, and we will expect to see sustainable improvements the next time we inspect.’
Trish Armstrong-Child, Chief Executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said in reply: ‘Following an unannounced inspection in June 2022, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rerated the overall rating for our maternity services at Blackpool Victoria Hospital to ‘Requires Improvement’. We accept the findings of the CQC and we want to reassure our communities that we are already working towards making the necessary improvements required. The safety of mothers and their children is very important to all of us and we want to make sure that there is strong evidence of this as they continue to use our services over the coming weeks, months and years.
While we are disappointed to see our overall rating of maternity services change from ‘Good’ to ‘Requires Improvement’, I am pleased that we have retained ‘Good’ for caring and had areas of outstanding practice highlighted in the report. We will continue to work hard to make sure women remain confident and feel safe when giving birth at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
We can also announce that our Trust is now part of the national Maternity Safety Support Programme which involves access to valuable support and guidance from senior clinical leaders regarding improvements we can make to our maternity services. We welcome this support which will come in the form of visits, mentoring, leadership development and the allocation of Maternity Improvement Advisors. I would like to thank our maternity colleagues for the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices they have made over the last two years. Our colleagues have gone over and above in caring for our patients, which was reflected in the report, and we can be incredibly proud of the many achievements made during this time.’