Hospital boss says he shares concerns of 'broken' midwives who wrote to watchdog

Craig Black, interim chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital

Interim chief executive, Craig Black called the actions of midwives "difficult and brave" - Credit: Archant/WSFT

West Suffolk Hospital’s interim chief has said it was “absolutely the right thing to do” for midwives to flag concerns over care.

In August, midwives penned a letter to the Care Quality Commission and media outlining the “substandard care” in the service, describing themselves as “exhausted and broken” and “regularly tearful and angry about the unsafe working conditions”.

Addressing the the county’s health scrutiny committee, interim chief executive, Craig Black called their actions "difficult and brave" – thanking staff that felt so committed to the level of service that they felt the need to publicly air concerns.

“All of the concerns that were raised I would personally share," he added.

"There is a shortage of midwives in West Suffolk, there is a shortage of midwives across the NHS – we are not immune from those wider pressures.

“When we haven’t got enough staff that means we are not providing the level of service we would all want to provide.

“People are safe, and that is the first priority of the organisation – to keep people safe and I am confident that is what we do but It becomes more difficult when there are staffing pressures or demand pressures.”

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Problems cited by staff included shifts regularly being short-staffed, the constant pressures on midwives and expectations of what is considered being safe having been lowered to such a degree they felt it was “consistently unsafe”.

The service has relied upon community midwives to come in and support the labour wards, while executive chief nurse, Sue Wilkinson, said a meeting had been held with midwives over their concerns.

Elsewhere, financial incentives have been provided for staff to book into the bank system of shifts to ease dependence on community midwives, which Ms Wilkinson said had been “very well received,” adding: “That has not solved the problem but gone some way to mitigating the problem”.

Health bosses explained to last week’s health scrutiny meeting that a business case to increase staffing levels in midwifery services had been agreed and a number of new midwives – either new to the trust or newly qualified entirely – had been recruited.

However, it had been acknowledged that Covid-19 had impacted on staff shortages as the recent return to school meant many midwives had been forced to self-isolate from instances of their children picking up the virus in schools.