Ma­ter­nity care un­der scru­tiny af­ter deaths

Cynon Valley - - ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE - MARK SMITH & RUTH MOS­AL­SKI mark.smith@waleson­

THE deaths of 26 ba­bies over nearly a three-year pe­riod are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by a health board.

Cwm Taf Uni­ver­sity Health Board, which cov­ers Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr Tyd­fil, con­ducted a re­view of births be­tween Jan­uary 1, 2016, and the end of Septem­ber, 2018.

It fol­lowed a “drop-off” in the num­ber of in­ci­dents that are typ­i­cally re­ported by hos­pi­tal staff over a sim­i­lar pe­riod of time.

The re­view found 43 cases where there had been an “ad­verse out­come”, which in­cludes a baby be­ing born early, be­ing small at birth or un­well.

It can also in­clude still­birth or death, as well as com­pli­ca­tions with the preg­nancy such as the mother suf­fer­ing a haem­or­rhage.

Of those 43 in­ci­dents, 20 were recorded as still­births and six were of ba­bies dy­ing shortly af­ter birth.

The births took place in the Royal Glam­or­gan Hos­pi­tal near Llantrisant, Prince Charles Hosp­tial in Merthyr Tyd­fil, and at home. Dur­ing the pe­riod more than 10,000 births were recorded by the health board.

Angela Hop­kins, in­terim di­rec­tor of nurs­ing for Cwm Taf, said the health board has faced a num­ber of chal­lenges in re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing ma­ter­nity staff.

But she said the un­der­re­port­ing of in­ci­dents was in no way an at­tempt by staff to hide or fudge fig­ures.

She said: “It is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial that pa­per­work is com­pleted to en­sure that the ser­vices we pro­vide are safe.

“We are look­ing at all the rea­sons why there may have been un­der-re­port­ing and our in­ves­ti­ga­tion is yet to be com­pleted.

“We have chal­lenges with our staffing lev­els in ma­ter­nity units – just like many oth­ers across the UK do at this time.

“But we have ex­cep­tion­ally pro­fes­sional staff. There was no at­tempt to hide any­thing or make fig­ures any bet­ter or worse.”

A state­ment from the health board stated: “We have gone back and looked at each of these cases in more de­tail to find out if all ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tions were taken at the time.

“We have al­most com­pleted the process, with a small num­ber of case re­views to be fi­nalised.

“Any fur­ther in­for­ma­tion aris­ing from this process will be shared in full with the fam­i­lies con­cerned and we will pro­vide ad­di­tional sup­port and any re­dress as ap­pro­pri­ate.

“We take our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for pa­tients very se­ri­ously and are de­ter­mined to do ev­ery­thing nec­es­sary to en­sure we pro­vide the best pos­si­ble care for women and their ba­bies.”

In re­sponse, Cwm Taf Uni­ver­sity Health Board has taken a num­ber of pos­i­tive ac­tions to strengthen the work­force, in­clud­ing: ap­point­ing an ad­di­tional mid­dle-grade doc­tor; ad­ver­tis­ing for ad­di­tional med­i­cal staff in­clud­ing con­sul­tants; ap­point­ing a con­sul­tant mid­wife; re­cruit­ing 15 mid­wives who will be join­ing the ser­vice over the next few weeks; and get­ting se­nior mid­wife sup­port from neigh­bour­ing health boards to sup­port over­all staffing lev­els.

Rhondda AM Leanne Wood has called on the health board to ex­tend the pe­riod they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing ma­ter­nity ser­vices.

She said: “It is con­cern­ing to hear of this re­view. In­quiries of this na­ture are rare and are not in­sti­gated on a whim.

“It is clear from the re­cruit­ment drive that Cwm Taf has em­barked on since re­al­is­ing there was a prob­lem that staffing has been an is­sue in the ma­ter­nity de­part­ment.

“I hope the new ap­point­ments and the ap­point­ments yet to be made have the im­pact of turn­ing the de­part­ment around and re­liev­ing the pres­sure on ex­ist­ing staff.

“I would ask if any­one has been af­fected by this is­sue and has not been con­tacted by the health board to make con­tact with them as soon as pos­si­ble.”

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