Stoke Mandeville Hospital addresses staff shortages after concerning CQC report

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“Action plans are underway to address the remaining issues highlighted”

Stoke Mandeville Hospital maternity department is welcoming more student midwives once qualified to help address staff shortage concerns.

Staff at Stoke Mandeville Hospital said during an inspection that they “felt unsafe” due to low staff numbers and increasing sickness rates as their colleagues became “more stressed”.

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Some 11 midwives left the service in the six months before it was visited by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in June.

Stoke Mandeville HospitalStoke Mandeville Hospital
Stoke Mandeville Hospital

The staff shortages reflect a national “maternity crisis”, which the Royal College of Midwives warned about earlier this year, saying that services were at “boiling point” as midwives were “leaving in droves”.

The Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which manages Stoke Mandeville Hospital, said it is now encouraging more student midwives to join its ranks and is securing commitment from its students earlier than previously.

The Trust has reduced its vacancy rates by almost 50 per cent, a spokesperson told the BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service.

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They said: “This has been achieved through recruiting internationally trained midwives as well as welcoming more of our midwifery students to the Trust once they’ve qualified.”

Midwifery students work in a shadowing capacity, always allocated to a member of staff, until they join the Nursing and Midwifery Council register.

As well as staffing issues, the CQC also raised concerns about patients’ privacy at Stoke Mandeville’s maternity department.

Inspectors found that “bereaved families might have been able to hear babies cry and families celebrating” due to the bereavement suite being situated on the Labour Ward.

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They also said it was “impossible to maintain confidentiality” in the “small and congested triage” where they heard the advice given to patients and details that would identify callers like their date of birth.

The trust said: “As a learning organisation, we are always looking for ways to improve our services.

“In maternity, we had already identified that work was needed to improve the environment to give pregnant women and their partners more privacy in advance of the CQC inspection.”

The CQC said medicines in the maternity department may have been spoiled after being kept at high temperatures, while drugs were “stored unsafely in an unlocked cupboard as a shortcut”.

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Inspectors also found “numerous samples of undated breast milk”, in the milk fridge and freezer, including one that was three months old.

The trust said: “Action plans are underway to address the remaining issues highlighted in the CQC inspection report including developing a programme to ensure equipment is replaced more pro-actively in future.

“The trust also recently invested in new foetal heart rate monitors which better support clinical decision making.”

Despite some issues at Stoke Mandeville, the CQC praised staff in multiple areas, including their understanding of “how to protect women and birthing people from abuse”.

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The hospital has also received positive reviews in recent months, including from a mum who said she was “blown away” by the “care, kindness and encouragement” of its “amazing” midwives when she gave birth there in September.