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Women in labour sent away in Sussex hospital staff shortage
A hospital maternity unit turned away pregnant women in labour 30 times in six months because of staff shortages.
Not enough staff also meant some women who had been hoping to a have a home birth ended up having to go into hospital because midwives could not be spared to go out.
The problems were highlighted during a routine visit by government inspectors to the hospital’s maternity unit in November.
They found the unit was meeting all the standards required except for staffing levels.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs both the Princess Royal and the Royal Sussex, said it had already been aware of the need to boost the number of midwives at the time of the visit.
It said it has recruited 15 new midwives and all are expected to be in place by the end of March.
Impact on service
In a report on its visit, the Care Quality Commission said there were insufficient numbers of qualified, skilled and experienced staff on duty at the unit on the day of the inspectors’ visit. They judged this had a moderate impact on people who use the service.
The report said mothers had been diverted to the maternity service on an alternative site on 30 occasions during the previous six months. The service had also closed to admissions four times in the six months.
The trust is aiming to have a midwife-to-birth ratio of 1:30 but at the time of the visit it was 1:34. Eight of the 15 new midwives were due to be recruited by December and will work in the community and deal with homebirths, easing pressure on the labour wards.
Staff told inspectors they considered they delivered good care to women considering the staffing levels although some were unhappy about not being able to provide the highest level of care.
The report said: “We were told that whilst community midwives usually attended labouring mothers during the day, at weekends and in the evenings, a midwife had to go out from the labour ward to provide support.
“They said that sometimes this left the labour ward short-staffed and the supervisor or manager had to attend.”
The hospital unit was highlighted in a national newspaper as one of 17 with inadequate staffing levels.
Trust chief operating officer Nikki Luffingham said the trust did not have “dangerously low numbers of nurses” and steps had been taken to boost numbers.
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