West Suffolk Hospital: Midwives' critical letter right says boss

Image caption,
West Suffolk Hospital's maternity service delivers about 2,500 babies a year

A whistleblowing letter sent by maternity staff to inspectors and a newspaper was "the right thing to do", the hospital's boss said.

Midwives at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds said they were "exhausted and broken" and claimed the unit was "consistently short-staffed".

The hospital had previously been criticised for its treatment of whistleblowers.

Its interim chief executive Craig Black said the letter was a "brave thing".

The anonymous letter was sent to the Bury Free Press, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the West Suffolk Foundation NHS Trust, in August.

It claimed the midwives had spoken out because standards of care had fallen sharply.

Staff were "under extreme pressures all the time, which has left them fed up, exhausted and burnt out", it said.

Image caption,
Midwives said they "frequently work long hours without meaningful breaks" in the letter

The Local Democracy Reporting Service reported that Mr Black told county's health scrutiny committee the letter was "absolutely the right thing to do".

"This is an opportunity to thank those members of staff that did feel so committed to the level of service they were providing on a daily basis that they felt the need to publicly air those concerns," he said.

"All of the concerns that were raised I would personally share. There is a shortage of midwives in west Suffolk, there is a shortage of midwives across the NHS - we are not immune from those wider pressures."

The hospital's executive chief nurse, Sue Wilkinson, said a meeting had been held with midwives over their concerns.

She said a new system had been brought in to reduce the reliance on community midwives, which "has not solved the problem but gone some way to mitigating the problem".

Health bosses said last week there was an agreement to increase staffing levels in midwifery services and a number of new midwives - either new to the trust or newly-qualified - had been recruited.

Ms Wilkinson added the hospital was "working on a long-term plan" for midwifery with other NHS trusts in the region.

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