Maternity staff angry over investigation

CONFUSION reigns at Ipswich Hospital's maternity department today after the head of midwifery was asked to step down from her post.

CONFUSION reigns at Ipswich Hospital's maternity department today after the head of midwifery was asked to step down from her post.

Christine Colbourne was asked to step aside after an investigation was launched in to the death of a baby.

Hospital bosses say concerns were raised about the way serious incidents are dealt with in the department, but that the decision is normal practice and does not mean Mrs Colbourne is guilty of wrong-doing.

However the move has angered her colleagues.

Outraged midwives are united in their support of Mrs Colbourne and say they believe she has been made a “scapegoat”.

They claim that the problems the unit is suffering stem from staff shortages and, in a letter to the Star, describe how morale in the maternity unit is “rock bottom”.

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The letter states: “The midwives are upset at what has happened to Christine Colbourne and wish for our support of her to be acknowledged. These adverse incidents were nothing to do with her leadership - she has been made a scapegoat.”

Mrs Colbourne was asked to step down in September when an investigation was launched into the circumstances surrounding a baby's death in the unit in July.

Her colleague Dr Winky Johal, an obstetric consultant and clinical director, has also been asked to step down from her clinical role.

Hospital bosses say there were no concerns over the standard of care the patient received, but there were issues over the way the incident had been reported.

Gwen Collins, director of nursing, said: “We had an incident reported to us where there was not enough evidence to show that trust policies had been followed.

“We raised this as a Serious Untoward Incident with the Strategic Health Authority as it involved the death of a baby.

“If we are not sure if trust policy has been followed, it is our policy that those in leadership roles step aside for the duration of the investigation.

“It is not indicative of guilt and the investigation has not finished yet.”

She said the main concern was that the incident had not been reported to the correct people at the time, and emphasised there have been no other Serious Untoward Incidents in the unit this year.

She said: “Our mortality figures are on a par, if not better than, other hospitals of the same size, but one baby's death is one too many.”

Mrs Colbourne and Dr Johal are still working at the hospital but in roles where they are not directly responsible for patient care.

The results of the investigation will be put before a panel of hospital directors and non-executive directors on October 30.

Mrs Collins denied claims the ward is short-staffed and said they only have one vacancy at the moment which is for a part-time post.

She said: “There are no plans to make any midwife working in either the hospital or the community redundant.”

The Hospital has set up a helpline for anyone who is worried about the issued raised in this story. If you have any concerns call 01473 703000 between 9am and 5pm.

Weblink: www.ipswichhospital.nhs.uk

MATERNITY staff at Ipswich Hospital today also aired concerns about the hospital's plans to move towards a centralised delivery suite rather than retaining three separate wards.

In a letter to the Star they said: “A central delivery suite will lose the personal aspects of giving birth as the women will be treated like a conveyor belt.”

The hospital plans to move to the new delivery suite on November 5.

Instead of three wards that each deal with ante-natal care, birth and post-natal care, the wards will be rearranged so that each ward deals with one of these things.

Mrs Collins said: “At the moment it is very difficult for doctors to prioritise high-risk births. They are having to run backwards and forwards between all three wards.”

The new set-up will have an ante-natal ward, a post-natal ward and a low-risk birthing ward, which will be staffed solely by midwives.

Women who are deemed to be high-risk will remain in the ante-natal ward where they will be looked after by consultants.

Mrs Collins also outlined changes to the way midwives work.

Rather than having two groups of midwives - one that specialises in community care and one that works in the hospital - all midwives are to be trained to work across both settings.

Ipswich Hospital's maternity department hit the headlines following the death of two-day-old Luke Day in February 2005.

He was believed to be the country's youngest MRSA victim.

An investigation by the hospital later proved that MRSA may not have been the cause of his death but highlighted a number of failings in his care.

In October 2005 an inquest was held in to the death of another baby who had died in the maternity department -Rowanne Barbrook was born in October 2004 and died after contracting the E.Coli bug.

At the inquest the coroner found there had been “a series of deficits and failures” throughout the time the baby's mother had been in hospital.

Immediately after Luke Day's death the hospital called in an independent panel of experts to carry out a thorough review of maternity services and look at ways services could be improved.

A thorough action plan was drawn up and staff have worked hard to implement it ever since. A recent follow-up inspection by the Strategic Health Authority found the department to be progressing successfully.

A review was also launched of all of the hospital's procedures for reporting serious incidents, and the threshold for reporting incidents was lowered.

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