Midwives hired after concerns raised over hospital maternity staffing and 'negative culture'

A hospital trust has been told it must increase staffing and address "low morale and negative culture" on its maternity wards following an inspection prompted by whistleblowers.

City Hospital.
City Hospital.

But maternity services at Birmingham City Hospital were rated as good overall by the health watchdog, which said "most areas were providing care that met the needs of women and babies".

The hospital, which is run by the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, was the subject of an unannounced inspection in May, after patients and whistleblowers raised concerns around staffing and a lack of support by managers for midwives.

The overall trust rating remains unchanged as 'requires improvement'.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said bosses had begun to address staffing needs by hiring 17 new nurses and midwives but that there was still work to be done.

It said the hospital had sometimes struggled to ensure there was enough staff to keep mothers and babies safe.

Bosses have also been told they must improve morale and the "negative culture" within maternity but added steps had begun to be taken to do this.

Bernadette Hanney, CQC’s head of hospital inspection, said: “When inspectors visited the maternity service at City Hospital, they were pleased to see that most areas were providing care that met the needs of women and babies.

“Prior to the inspection, we received information from whistleblowers regarding staffing, particularly within community midwife teams.

"We are grateful to these staff for coming forward as our inspection found that managers sometimes struggled to ensure the service had enough nursing and midwifery staff to keep women and babies safe.

“Leaders understood this and took action to address it by recruiting 17 new nurses and midwives and were taking steps to address recruitment and retention issues.

“During the inspection we found that midwives and consultants worked well together for the benefit of women and their babies, and all staff were clear about their roles and accountabilities.

“All staff were committed to continually improving care and the service engaged well with women and the wider community to plan and manage services which had a positive impact on the care being given.

“We have reported our findings to the trust leadership, which knows what it must do to ensure the current level of care is sustained and further improvements are made so staff, patients and babies are fully supported.”

Mel Roberts, acting chief nurse at the trust, said: “We welcome today’s CQC report which rates our maternity service overall as good. This confirms that our services for women and babies are safe and that midwives and consultants work together for the benefit of women and babies.

“It also emphasises that all our maternity staff are committed to continually improving care. We are pleased that the CQC acknowledge our work on staffing, in particular the recent recruitment of 17 new midwifery colleagues and a diversity and inclusion lead midwife.

"The senior leaders recognise that there is more for us to do and are working with staff to improve the service. The women and babies under our care remain our first priority and to ensure they feel safe in accessing clinics we have provided alternative venues away from our acute hospitals since early on in the pandemic.”

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