'Major' improvements underway at Ipswich maternity unit and more to come

A "major improvement programme" has been put in place at Ipswich Hospital's maternity unit after CQC

A "major improvement programme" has been put in place at Ipswich Hospital's maternity unit after CQC report rated it "requires improvement". - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A "major improvement programme" is already underway at a Suffolk maternity unit, and further changes could soon be put in place in the wake of a high-profile NHS report into baby deaths.

Bosses at Ipswich hospital say the programme focuses on safety and ensuring "anyone using our maternity services has a positive experience with us".

It was put in place in July 2021 after Ipswich Hospital's maternity unit was rated as Requires Improvement by the Care Quality Commission.

Inspectors raised concerns over understaffing and also found some staff did not have sufficient training, qualifications or skills to keep women safe from avoidable harm.

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), said: “We have launched a major improvement programme at our Trust called Every Birth Every Day, which is chaired by our Chief Executive Nick Hulme, to focus on delivering great care to families and newborn babies. 

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: ESNEFT

"Membership includes community representatives and members of the Maternity Voices Partnership, which represents the views and experiences of pregnant people and their families.

"We also have a strengthened maternity leadership team in place, which provides consistent oversight of the standards of care for pregnant people, their babies, and families.

“We are making significant progress on all the recommendations for change, not only those made by the Care Quality Commission, but also the interim and final Ockenden reports."

The Ockenden report into Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust found “repeated errors in care” that led to the deaths of more than 200 babies and uncovered the UK’s biggest maternity scandal.

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The review identified 15 “immediate and essential actions which must be implemented by all trusts in England providing maternity services”.

Specific measures introducing these recommendations will be discussed at the next Trust board meeting in May.

Mr Thorpe said: "We take the recommendations extremely seriously and are working with our partners across the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System to improve our services further.

“The focus for us at ESNEFT in the coming months is the continued recruitment of maternity and obstetric staff, which has already been successful, with new staff joining the Trust from both national and international recruitment campaigns.”