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Improvements made to Royal Berks maternity unit after falling below watchdog standards

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In October, the Newbury Weekly News reported that the maternity units had to close entirely on six occasions during August due to insufficient staff, with expectant mothers diverted to other hospitals in Basingstoke, Oxford and Swindon.
It followed an inspection by healthcare watchdog the Care Quality Commission earlier in 2014, which deemed that
the hospital’s maternity services required improvement, and that its safety measures were inadequate.
The issue caught the attention of West Berkshire Council’s overview and scrutiny management commission, which called for a review into the services that the hospital offers, and a presentation was given to the commission by two hospital representatives on Tuesday night.
It was revealed that staff levels are now adequate and issues in August were caused by several staff members entering maternity leave before replacement staff could be recruited.
Keith Woodhams (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “[The report] really does leave the reader to assume that things wouldn’t have happened had the inspection not occurred.”
He went on to quote a segment of the CQC report, which read: “Midwifery staffing levels were found to be insufficient to provide a consistently safe service, especially on Rushey ward.
“Following our announced inspection, the trust closed two beds to manage capacity and associated safety risks.
“The ventilation system within the delivery suite had been identified as not meeting standards expected… staff were potentially at risk from inhalation of excess nitrous oxide.”
Mr Woodhams added: “Surely the management should be equipped to see this coming.
“I worry about the management here… are they being paid enough, are they the right people, are they doing the job properly?”
The director of midwifery for the Royal Berkshire Hospital Foundation Trust, Gill Valentine, said that efforts to rectify issues were not prompted by the CQC inspection.
“The ventilation system is being resolved right now,” she said. “This is a major structural issue which has required significant work to resolve. It’s not a quick fix.
“We had a massive air handling unit craned on to the roof to enable them to even start the work on the delivery suite.
“We have had to take rooms out of action to enable us to do that.
“All of that has to be planned. We have to mitigate against those resources.”
The scrutiny team will now consider what action to take and any recommendations that should be put to the hospital and bring their conclusions back to a public meeting of the commission.
The lack of maternity facilities at the West Berkshire Community Hospital will also be looked into.
At the meeting, Ms Valentine said that providing services at the community hospital was not being ruled out, but that at this time efforts were concentrated on making sure the main maternity source at the Royal Berkshire Hospital was running as efficiently as possible.

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