Maternity services in Somerset 'inadequate' - watchdog sends warning to NHS bosses

Maternity services in Taunton and Yeovil have been declared “inadequate” by the health watchdog.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) discovered a string of issues across multiple hospitals when they inspected Somerset NHS Foundation Trust’s maternity services in November.

The reports have now been published and a warning notice sent to bosses at Musgrove Park and Yeovil District hospitals. Bridgwater Community Hospital's maternity services was also inspected and require improvement.

In Taunton, inspectors found there was not enough equipment to resuscitate babies in an emergency. There was also not always enough midwifery staff to keep people safe.

Staff also failed to complete mandatory training - with gaps including how to protect people from abuse and how to manage when unborn babies had reduced movements or growth restrictions.

A lack of emergency equipment was also an issue in Yeovil and inspectors also found the service did not always control infection well - saying staff did not always clean their hands. 

In Bridgwater, the CQC highlighted issues around leadership, wait times and how equipment was maintained. It also found lessons were not always learned following incidents. 

High sickness levels among staff in Bridgwater also saw some services closed for five months of the year.

Maternity services at Musgrove Park Hospital have been rated as inadequate.

Carolyn Jenkinson, CQC’s deputy director of secondary and specialist care said inspectors found a “deterioration” in the quality of care being provided across the Trust’s maternity services.

“We also had particularly significant concerns with the care being provided at Musgrove Park Hospital and Yeovil District Hospital,” she added.

“Leaders weren’t supporting staff to learn from incidents or make improvements when things went wrong. Incident data seen by inspectors also didn’t always match up with information provided to the trust’s board.

"Leaders also weren’t effectively monitoring how the services performed, or taking action when risks needed to be escalated."

She also highlighted "poor systems" for assessing women who need medical attention at Musgrove Park.

Speaking about Yeovil, she added: "We were concerned that staff weren’t always cleaning their hands when entering clinical areas to care for people, and they weren’t always following the trust’s uniform policy to help reduce spreading germs. Leaders also weren’t monitoring whether staff were complying with their hand hygiene policies."

Ms Jenkinson highlighted high rates of staff sickness at Bridgwater, saying poor staffing levels meant the birth centre and home birth service had to close for five months between February and July.

"However, the trust had taken steps to recruit more midwives," she said. "They should also review how to ensure the service is sustainable for local women and people.”

Ms Jenkinson added: “We have told the trust where we expect to see significant improvements and will continue to monitor them closely while these improvements are made.

"We will return to check on their progress and won’t hesitate to take action if women, people using the service and their babies are not receiving the care they have a right to expect.”

In a statement, Chief Executive of Somerset NHS Foundation Trust Peter Lewis said the Trust has made significant changes since the inspection.

“We want to say sorry to our families that use these services and to our hard-working colleagues,” he said.

“We are committed to improve, so that we provide an excellent service that supports women, birthing people, and families in Somerset. We have made significant changes since the inspection and will continue to do so.”

He added: “We are here to support all those using our maternity services. If you have any questions, or concerns, would like more information, or to speak to someone about our service, please speak to your midwife. We are here to help and support you.”

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