Cwm Taf maternity crisis: Midwife stress adds to staff problems

Doctor in maternity unit Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are three long-term consultant locums working in the units to cover gaps

The aftermath of a damning review into maternity services at two south Wales hospitals has added to staffing problems, a report has said.

Sickness absence among midwives is running at 11% with stress the biggest cause, Cwm Taf Bro Morgannwg health board will hear on Wednesday.

"Significant service change" and the negative impact of the report at the end of April are said to be factors.

Meanwhile, some poor patient experiences are still being reported.

Maternity services at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil and the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant were put in special measures after experts from two royal colleges called services dysfunctional and mothers' experiences "distressing".

The health board's chief executive Allison Williams has herself since gone on sick leave.

Although the majority of mothers now report very good experiences, poor feedback since April includes:

  • "Midwife had a very abusive manner and reduced a patient to tears - formal complaint being submitted"
  • "Patients overheard midwifes talking derogatorily about each other"
  • "Staff very loud both day and night - no consideration or compassion shown for those patient needing rest and sleep"
  • Delays in receiving medication and patient notes and drug charts often going missing
Image caption Dr Sharon Hopkins has taken over as interim chief executive after moving from Cardiff and Vale health board

The health board has increased the frequency of its patient surveys to twice a week and managers have written to all midwives, reminding them of their professional behaviours and responsibilities.

There are 14 vacancies among midwives - among 149 jobs available across the health board - 20 midwives had been offered jobs, but Cwm Taf was the first choice with less than half of them.

There are also four consultant vacancies - three new ones are due to start work, but two mid-grade doctors have resigned.

The report also reveals 118 maternity incidents were reported in the health board in June - including five moderate harm incidents - which included a needle stick injury and an example where a baby received a cut to the head during a Caesarian section.

The report said weekly meetings were held at Prince Charles Hospital - where complicated births take place - and fortnightly meeting at the Royal Glamorgan to review where things have gone wrong, adding attendances had "increased vastly".

The board continues to investigate eight serious untoward incidents, which are reportable to the Welsh Government, which happened since September 2018.

In addition to the health board's own improvement plan, the Welsh Government has appointed an independent oversight panel to monitor and challenge the health board over maternity improvements.

The panel is likely to look into the circumstance into serious incidents involving mothers and babies stretching back a decade.

Greg Dix, Cwm Taf's director of nursing, midwifery and patient care, said: "Any issues raised about our services are treated with the utmost seriousness and we apologise to anyone whose care has fallen short of the standard which they deserve.

"We are absolutely committed to putting things right and addressing all the concerns identified by the Royal Colleges' report."

He added that work was under way to improve care, manage sickness and address staffing issues.

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