By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
A Nottingham councillor asked the boss of Nottingham hospitals for reassurances her pregnant daughter will get good maternity care during a meeting on standards.
In September maternity services at Nottingham’s hospitals moved out of an ‘inadequate’ rating for the first time in almost three years after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said improvements had been made.
The independent regulator of healthcare in England, which inspected maternity services at the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) and Nottingham City Hospital in April, said care had show signs of improvement.
The services, along with the safety rating and leadership, are no longer rated inadequate and have moved to ‘requires improvement’.
Nottingham City Hospital’s overall rating has also risen to ‘good’ as a result.
Nottingham City Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee members discussed the key findings and concerns raised in the inspections during a meeting on November 16.
Meadows councillor Eunice Holland Regan (Lab) spoke to chief executive of the hospital trust, Anthony May, asking: “More on a personal level, should I be confident enough, now that my daughter is pregnant, that she is going to get the care and attention that she actually needs?
“I think it just needs a one-word answer.”
Mr May replied: “I never do one-word answers. So I would say yes, and then, because if you read the CQC report that’s what the government’s independent regulator says.”
An unannounced inspection of maternity services took place on April 25 and 26, and this was followed by a ‘well-led’ inspection in June, which looked at overall leadership, governance and culture.
Progress was noted, including an increase in compliance with mandatory training by 20 per cent since March last year.
Inspectors said leaders and staff now understood the importance of being able to raise concerns without fear of retribution.
A new system has also helped make sure 96 per cent of all pregnant people are seen within 15 minutes of arrival in the triage unit.
However, particular concerns were raised over the storage of breast milk and medicines, as well as call bells so that women and babies are kept safe.
The inspection said the hospital’s own sheet used to record fridge temperatures stated that the it should range from two to eight degrees centigrade.
But, according to regulations, breast milk can be stored in the fridge for up to five days at four degrees centigrade or lower.
This meant breast milk stored in the fridge could be at risk of contamination, making them unsafe to use.
Milk was labelled but stored in a refrigerator in an unlocked room accessible to all, meaning there was an additional risk that unauthorised individuals could tamper with it.
Cllr Georgia Power (Lab), committee chair, said: “It felt like the CQC raised relatively basic things, like the storage of breast milk. Did you know about those before the CQC rating?
Mr May responded: “The storage of breast milk was very unfortunate and very concerning.”
Rebecca Gray, head of midwifery, added: “In terms of the storage of breast milk it is around ensuring secure access really. So what we have done in response to that is make sure we have got [digital locks] on all of the fridges.
“The situation we had before there was just a signing in and out process which was not as secure as it should have been and that was something we were able to remedy really quickly.”
The inspection further raised issue that the trust was not complying with its responsibilities for duty of candour.
Duty of candour is a professional responsibility to be honest with patients when things go wrong.
Councillors said they were concerned to see it remained a problem.
Michelle Rhodes, chief nurse, said: “Our CQC assessments have changed from inadequate to requires improvement.
“Obviously we are not pleased with requires improvement, but we are pleased we are making progress.”
Mr May added he did not expect the hospital trust as a whole to reach the ‘good’ rating milestone for another three years, owing to continued work and inspection timelines.
However, in the next year he says it is hoped patient and staff experiences will improve.