CQC publish report into Whittington Health NHS Trust maternity service

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28 Apr 2023

The CQC found some very positive practices in our maternity care and identified areas to focus on for improvement

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The CQC carried out a dedicated inspection of our maternity service in January as part of a national maternity inspection programme. We were inspected for two of the CQC’s five domains – Safety and Well-Led. During their visit, the inspectors did not consider that we also needed to be inspected for Effectiveness, Caring or Responsive, which means that they had no concerns in these areas.

The report, which has been published today, includes positive findings and areas for improvement. The CQC has rated our maternity service as ‘good’ for Well-Led, as ‘requires improvement’ for Safety and as ‘requires improvement’ overall. We continue to be rated as ‘good’ on the three other domains the CQC did not inspect: ‘responsive’, ‘caring’ and ‘effective’ and therefore we have requested a review of the overall rating by the CQC.
Whittington Hospital and Whittington Health NHS Trust are both still rated ‘good’ overall.
The report compliments our staff on having a strong focus on the needs of women and birthing people, on good cleaning and infection control, and on strong collaboration and engagement with women and birthing people.
It also highlights that we have visible and approachable leaders who support staff to develop their skills, staff who feel respected, supported and valued, and the right number of staff with the right level of skills and experience. Our approach to using feedback and encouraging continuous improvement was also praised.
A key finding from the report is that we have work to do to ensure our environment meets the needs and expectations of women and their families. However, the CQC acknowledged our ambitious £100 million refurbishment plans for maternity and NICU. These plans will completely transform this part of our hospital, with spaces designed around the needs and experience of women and families, including ensuite labour rooms and improved bereavement spaces.
The inspectors noted that we should have dedicated midwifery staff to respond to the maternity triage telephone line and that we did not have a consistent approach to risk assessments. However, they did praise our 24-hour access to specialist mental health support. We also need to ensure all staff have completed mandatory training (for example, on safeguarding policies and actions) relevant to their role, although the CQC did agree that our staff understood how to protect women and birthing people from abuse and our service worked well with other agencies to do so.
Responding to the report, our Chief Executive Helen Brown said:
“Whilst we have requested a review of our overall rating by the CQC there is much to be proud of in the overall report of the partial CQC review of the service – in particular our strong focus on our service users, women and families, staff morale and a strong new leadership.
“However, there are also areas where we must focus our attention on making improvements. We already have ambitious plans for completely renovating maternity around the needs of our service users and staff, with all labour rooms having ensuite facilities, and are just about to complete a refurbishment of our midwife-led birthing centre.”
Our Chief Nurse and Director of AHPs, Sarah Wilding, added:
“This is the first time our maternity service has been inspected since 2016. Thank you to everyone – staff and patients – who spoke to the inspectors and answered their questions openly and honestly.
“Whilst we are asking the CQC to reconsider its overall ‘requires improvement’ rating, it’s report has helped show how far we have come – in particular highlighting our Ockenden Café training sessions which ensure we embed recommendations from the Ockenden reports into what we do – and also focus on where we can do more to ensure we provide the highest quality of care and best experience for local women and families, giving the over 3,000 babies born here each year the safest and most welcoming entrance to this world.”

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