Maternity care improvements not being made fast enough, says Care Quality Commission

Maternity care in parts of England is still not as safe as it should be, a review by a health watchdog has found.

Some staff still do not have the right skills or knowledge and there are continued failings when it comes to learning from things that have gone wrong, inspectors said.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said five years on from a major review that highlighted serious issues in maternity care, many of those same problems still exist.

In its briefing, published on Thursday, it said: “Maternity services stand out as one of the core services we inspect that is not making improvements in safety fast enough.”

The CQC said it is “particularly concerning” that aspects raised in the 2015 Kirkup report (pictured), which investigated the maternity scandal at Morecambe Bay,

still need to be addressed in some maternity care settings.

Dr Nigel Acheson, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for maternity, said while there had been some improvements in quality “we are still seeing too much variation in quality and safety across the country”.

He said: “In some cases we have seen services where staff do not have the right skills or knowledge, where poor working relationships between obstetricians, midwives and neonatologists pose a barrier to safe care, and where there is limited oversight of risk and a lack of investigation and learning when things go wrong.

“The continued national focus on the safety of maternity services is welcome – and we are seeing some positive change.

“However, the progress made does not yet meet the scale of the challenge and we must accelerate efforts at pace if the improvements in safety are to be achieved with the urgency needed.”

The CQC said the change needed in “safety culture” has not been consistently delivered across the country.

“Leadership and cultural barriers need to be addressed if these overdue improvements in safety are to be achieved with the urgency needed,” the watchdog said.

The briefing is based on analysis of published inspection reports, the results of a 2019 maternity survey and the thoughts of care providers and members of the public.

In February the Government announced an independent review into maternity services at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.

It came amid reports that at least seven preventable baby deaths may have occurred at the trust since 2016.

The CQC said maternity services at the Princess Royal Hospital and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, both part of Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust rated inadequate for safety in their most recent inspections.

Peterborough City Hospital, part of North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, and West Suffolk Hospital, part of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, both rated inadequate for how well-led their maternity services were in their most recent inspections, the CQC said.

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