Trust told to hire 40 new midwives

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CITY hospital chiefs have launched a recruitment drive after being criticised by a health watchdog for not employing enough permanent midwives to cope with the city’s baby boom.

Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was among 22 trusts in the country told to make “urgent improvements” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) under a tough new system of regulation.

It announced today that the trust was around 40 permanent midwives short and unless the numbers were boosted the CQC would remove it from the register which shows that it is meeting the statutory standards in the quality of its health care.

In February, the trust’s staffing ratios were one midwife to 43 births but the CQC said they must be no less than one to 35 by July 2010.

If the trust fails to act, their registration could be cancelled and it could be hit with instant fines or prosecution - which carries with it penalties of up to £50,000. But bosses at the trust said they were well aware of the issue and had launched a recruitment drive in December 2009 to increase the number of midwives to 142 over the next two years.

Frances Carey, CQC regional director, said the trust had declared concerns about its standard relating to the number of midwives in its self-assessment posted to the CQC.

Although the trust had prepared an action plan to address this, Mrs Carey said the date for the extra midwives to start was some time in the future and the trust had not given them enough reassurances that it had contingency plans in place to cope until then.

She added: “It is important that the trust takes timely action to ensure there are sufficient numbers of staff to assist women in labour and the CQC has, therefore, placed a condition requiring the trust to increase its midwifery staffing level by the end of July 2010.”

The trust also declared concerns relating to its cleanliness and infection control. However, following a rigorous assessment, the CQC determined that the trust was taking action to improve services and did not impose conditions relating to this. Trust chief executive Nik Patten said he was confident that the problem would be resolved quickly.

He said: “We are fully aware of our need to recruit more midwives, which is why we told the CQC about our agreed investment to employ 43 extra permanent midwives. This was the first priority for our new head of midwifery, Penny Brett, who has already made significant progress on recruitment with interviews taking place now.”

Ms Brett said there was a national shortage of midwives but some regions had a surplus which she was trying to attract to Peterborough.

In January 2008, the ET reported that the number of eastern European mothers giving birth in Peterborough rocketed from three-a-year to almost 200 in six years. A trust spokeswoman said it was too simplistic to blame the midwife shortage on the migrant baby boom.

Cynthia Bower, CQC chief executive, said: “For 22 trusts, registration is conditional on improvements being made.

“We have set out the steps we expect to be taken. It is now the responsibility of these trusts to ensure improvements are made. If they fail to act, we will take appropriate action.”