NUH leaders face questions on when its maternity units can start ‘delivering excellence’

The Queen's Medical Centre
By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter

Nottingham hospital executives were today questioned on when maternity services will start to ‘deliver excellence’ amid a widescale review into failures.

Maternity units at the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital in Nottingham were first rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2020.

Both are run by Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUH).

During Nottingham City Council’s health scrutiny committee on September 15, one councillor criticised trust leaders, who could not provide a timeline for when the units could return to a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ rating.

Explaining why, NUH Chief Nurse Michelle Rhodes highlighted that promises of improvement by a certain date had been made at the committee before, which then did not materialise.

The new NUH Chief Executive Anthony May attended the meeting, as well as Dr Nigel Sturrock, Midlands Regional Medical Director at NHS England.

Also present was Rosa Waddingham of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Integrated Care Board.

Mr May reiterated an apology to parents who have suffered as a result of poor care at the trust’s maternity units.

Yesterday, Donna Ockenden told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that her review following a series of baby deaths and incidents is already of a “very large scale indeed”, with well over 400 families having contacted it directly.

Councillor Michael Edwards (Lab) said during the meeting: “What is the target date when the service is going to be delivering excellence? I don’t think you’ve got that date.

“I heard people saying progress is not fast enough, I would call that management speak.”

Ms Rhodes responded by saying councillors could come and see a new project management system which was helping to ensure the trust moved through a detailed improvement plan.

Cllr Edwards responded: “What’s the date? When are you going to be delivering an excellent service?”

Ms Rhodes responded: “I don’t know what answer to give you.

“There are so many caveats and I’m not trying to make excuses – but I don’t want to promise something I can’t keep. That’s what has happened here before.”

She said the trust has purchased a new software system called which has “transformed” the way the trust sees improvements it has made.

Ms Waddingham added: “One of the concerns raised in January when the CQC visited was the triage of services which was at that time around 65 per cent.

“That had significantly improved and now triage is now at 90 to 95 per cent consistently.

“One of the issues was around training and we have had a real focus on foetal monitoring.

“The trust is now regularly reporting over 95 per cent compliance with foetal monitoring.

“Recognising that we are coming to almost two years since the first CQC visit, we have a full stock take planned of our maternity improvement plan, to go through all of the achievements made and seek further evidence of embeddedness.”

Dr Nigel Sturrock, Regional Medical Director at NHS England in the Midlands, said he has seen “significant change” at the trust.

He said: “We see it is crucial to have the right people on the board and this is where the new chair and chief executive are key appointments.

“A stable and effective board is what is going to be a key improver.

“The way they investigate incidents and learn from incidents has changed.

“We see the dial is shifting, there is improvement that has happened and we can see things are changing.

“There’s still more to be done I don’t think there’s any dispute about that.

“At last, things are improving but none of us think the pace of change has been fast enough, but we can see there is now a process in place that will give the momentum that is needed.”

Mr May added: “It’s worth stating NUH’s position on the review, we fully support the review and know it’s extremely important to families and public confidence.

“We will do everything we can to support Donna Ockenden.”

He added that in his first few weeks in the role, he has visited the maternity units, after hearing that some issues “have been attributed to the lack of visibility with leadership”.

Councillor Maria Joannou (Lab) added: “It’s nice having you back and for the first time I think in real terms you are addressing the issue around culture.

“That hasn’t really happened in the past and that has been our frustration.”

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