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North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust: Babies put 'at risk'


Mothers and their babies were put "at risk" due to problematic staffing levels at a hospital trust, the health and care regulator found.

Unannounced inspections by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found several areas of concern at maternity services in hospitals run by North Cumbria Integrated Care (NCIC) NHS Trust.

As a result the regulator downgraded the trust’s safety rating to "requires improvement" although the services overall remained "good."

After the inspections into maternity care at Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary, Whitehaven's West Cumberland Hospital and the Penrith Birthing Unit, the CQC's deputy director of secondary and specialist healthcare, Carolyn Jenkinson, said: "Staffing levels at each hospital didn't always match the planned numbers needed to keep people and babies safe."

She said community midwives were sometimes redeployed to other hospitals, affecting staffing levels at dedicated birthing sites and home births, which "could place people and their babies at risk."

Mothers and babies were put in danger because there were not always enough staff "suitably trained" who could respond to "emergency life support situations.”

Inspectors also found that "not all staff had training in key skills", which included "life support and safeguarding training" across the trust's maternity services but they found leaders "ran services well" using "reliable" systems and actively supported staff.

Ms Jenkinson, who said there was a "recruitment plan" to fill vacancies, added: "It was positive that leaders were visible and approachable across all three maternity sites.

"Staff told us how supportive their managers were, and it was good to hear that the executive team regularly visited wards and helped with any issues brought to their attention."

She added the watchdog would continue to monitor the trust to ensure "the necessary improvements are made so people and their babies can receive safe and appropriate care."

The regulator’s findings follow a review of maternity services across the country, and comes several years after midwives warned mothers and babies "may die" following changes to the service at the time.

NCIC Trust chief nurse, Jill Foster, said maternity services were under intense scrutiny, and felt the rating was a "great achievement by the team.”

She added: "The safety of women and birthing people and their children is of the highest importance to us all. We welcome the fact that the CQC has highlighted some areas where we can make further improvements to make sure we deliver safe, high-quality care every time."