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04.12.17

South Tyneside Hospital suspends maternity services in urgent safety measures

Bosses at South Tyneside District Hospital have halted baby delivery services following concerns being raised about safety.

The hospital, run by South Tyneside NHS FT, have already suspended its special care baby unit (SCBU) last Thursday due to extreme staffing pressures, a decision which was thought to have had a knock-on effect.

Although a number of low-risk deliveries were completed over the weekend, trust leaders have decided to suspend all deliveries from today following advice from maternity experts in other parts of the region.

There were a total of 165 women booked for deliveries in the maternity unit and the trust says they will all be personally contacted to ensure safe alternative arrangements can be made.

Dr Shahid Wahid, medical director at South Tyneside NHS FT said closing services was a “very difficult decision” but thanked other colleagues in the region for their support.

“Although we have been able to put urgent safety protocols in place for a very small number of low risk deliveries since the suspension of our SCBU service on Thursday this is not something which can be sustained,” he said.

“The very clear and resounding advice that we have now had from maternity and neonatal experts around the region is that we need to pause all births so that we can ensure further robust processes are developed for low risk deliveries at South Tyneside hospital during the suspension of SCBU services.

“We recognise that this is very upsetting news for our staff, patients and the local community but the clinical safety of women and babies in our care simply must come first. We are working to support our maternity teams and talking to the women and families affected by this urgent safety measure.”

The decision is support by commissioners, with Dr David Hambleton, chief officer at NHS South Tyneside CCG saying that the primary concern was for the safety of mother and child.

He added: “We will continue to support the trust and do all we can to ensure that the necessary work takes place as soon as possible to allow low risk deliveries to take place in the hospital during the temporary suspension of SCBU services.”

The hospital currently has a ‘requires improvement’ rating following a December CQC report. It got the same rating in each of the regulators key categories except for being caring where it received a ‘good’.

Hambleton also explained that the CCG is currently looking at possible changes to maternity services, to combat “immense pressure” on staff.

In response to the news, a joint statement from NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “We appreciate that the decision by South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust to temporarily suspend its special care baby unit and obstetric unit services has been a very difficult one to make. Ensuring the safety of mums and babies must be the absolute priority.

“We will continue to work closely with South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and other trusts in the region to help maintain the safe and sustainable health care of mums and their new born babies and to support plans to re-instate births in South Tyneside as soon as possible.”     

Last month, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) revealed a worryingly high number of European midwives and nursing leaving the UK and returning to the EU.

In response to fears of an NHS ‘staff exodus’, health minister Philip Dunne said it was “not actually correct” to claim that a large number of staff were leaving and in fact proportions are “not that different”.

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