Hospital maternity downgraded after midwives shortage revealed

The NHS is a cause for concern. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Colchester Hospital is suffering a shortage of midwives. Stock photo. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

An Essex hospital’s maternity services suffering staff shortages has been downgraded to ‘requires improvement’.

Whistleblowers alerted officials to the problems at Colchester Hospital - though maternity services across the country are facing “similar staffing issues”.

The hospital, which is facing a number of midwives set to retire at the same time, has seen its rating downgraded from ‘Good’ to ‘Requires Improvement’.

An extra 30 midwives are being recruited from Italy and Portugal to work at Ipswich, Colchester and Clacton hospitals in light of a Care Quality Commission inspection that found sustained periods of reduced staffing.

The shortage of staff is not related to Brexit, a spokesperson for the hospital added, but rather to do with the age profile of current midwives – many of whom are reaching retirement age together.


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She added a lot was being done to accommodate career progression for midwives to encourage more to join and stay in the profession.

The unannounced inspection followed six whistleblowing reports between August 2020 and February 2021 in relation to midwifery staffing levels at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust’ (ESNEFT) maternity wards.

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The Care Quality Commission found sustained periods of reduced staffing as well as issues with the management of the maternity triage system and the process for induction of labour when it visited between April 7 to April 15, 2020.

Since then a number of improvements have started.

Four workstreams will address organisational development, safety culture, governance, and staffing and workforce.

A report from ESNEFT to the Essex Health Overview Policy and Scrutiny Committee meeting on September 2  said: “The Trust was aware of the challenges within maternity services prior to the CQC inspection and was taking steps to improve the leadership and governance structures to support them.

“Maternity services across the country are facing similar staffing issues and we are not an outlier.

“The Trust Board takes these matters very seriously and welcomes the support and guidance our national and local colleagues and stakeholders to carry out the improvement plan.”

A spokesperson for ESNEFT added: “We are all doing everything we can to address the staffing issue and are very much looking forward to welcoming 30 international midwives to East Suffolk and North Essex NHS foundation Trust in the coming weeks and months.”

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