MATERNITY wards in Sussex "did not have enough staff to keep women and babies safe" - according to a damning report published today.

A number of hospitals, including the Royal Sussex County Hospital, need "immediate improvement," says the official healthcare watchdog.

Maternity and surgery services at the hospital, in Brighton, were branded inadequate after an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Reports state that maternity wards at the Royal Sussex, Worthing Hospital and St Richards in Chichester did not have enough midwifery staff to keep women and babies safe. Staff also raised concerns at the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath.

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the site, said "urgent action" had been taken following the inspection earlier this year.

Chief executive Marianne Griffiths, who is retiring next year, said:“We take the CQC’s findings very seriously. As soon as we received the inspectors’ initial feedback we acted immediately to make urgent improvements to ensure we continue to provide safe care.

“Hospitals all across the country have felt the strain of the pandemic and we are no exception. A combination of extraordinary levels of need for our services and high rates of staff absence related

to Covid has left our staffing rotas extremely stretched and this pressure has led to many of the issues the CQC raised.

“We are doing everything in our power to tackle the underlying issue of staffing numbers. We have recently confirmed funds for 40 new midwives and obstetricians.

"We are also recruiting more qualified nurses from overseas and partnering with the Universities of Brighton and Chichester to train more nursing and medical staff to work in our hospitals.

“However, we fully accept there is more we can and must do, not just around staffing but also in making sure we are meeting required standards day in, day out and that we give our staff the support they need and deserve”.

The CQC carried out a series of unannounced inspections in September and October.

Inspectors also visited Worthing Hospital, St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

These hospitals - also run by the University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust - were described as requiring improvement.

The watchdog, which published its reports today, raised concerns about staff shortages, skills training and risk management.

It was the first CQC inspection since Western Sussex Trust merged with Brighton and Sussex NHS Trust in April.

The trust chairman, Alan McCarthy, said: “Our staff across UHSussex have not wavered in their dedication to good and compassionate patient care and we are enormously grateful for their commitment.

"We have moved quickly to make immediate improvements and will continue to drive forward the actions needed in the other areas the CQC has identified.”

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