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Royal Berkshire maternity services under scrutiny of district council

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In October, the Newbury Weekly News reported that the hospital’s maternity unit had to close entirely on six separate occasions in August owing to staff shortages, resulting in expectant mothers travelling to other hospitals such as those in Basingstoke, Oxford and Swindon.
At a meeting of West Berkshire Council’s overview and scrutiny management commission on Tuesday, members voted to conduct an in-depth review of the operations of the Royal Berkshire Hospital’s maternity unit and how any issues there could impact on West Berkshire residents.
The main aim will be for the commission to gain an understanding of the services provided by the unit, of staffing levels that are required there for safe operation, specific causes of the August closures, remedial measures that have been taken to avoid any recurrence and to make any recommendations as required.
The lack of maternity facilities at the West Berkshire Community Hospital will also be looked into, following a proposal from Roger Hunneman (Lib Dem, Victoria) who said this had been a long-standing issue in the local community and could help improve services at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. The findings of the review will be made public.
The executive portfolio older for health and well being at West Berkshire Council, Marcus Franks (Con, Speen), said: “Maternity services are always a topic of interest for residents.”
“I am, therefore, pleased that the scrutiny committee has decided to look into maternity services available to West Berkshire residents following the capacity issues at Royal Berkshire Hospital earlier this year.
“It is important to remember that West Berkshire residents have the option of four hospital maternity wards and indeed the choice of home births, not just the RBH.
“I will look forward with interest to the work and findings of the committee next year”.
Speaking after the closures in August, spokesman for the RBH Joe Wise said: “During August we had a higher level of vacancies than usual.
“In addition, we had several midwives on maternity leave and some higher than normal levels of sickness among the staff.”
The issues followed on from a report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in June which found staffing levels in the Rushey maternity unit to be insufficient. The hospital subsequently closed two of its four beds.
However, the report also highlighted some of the maternity unit’s strengths. stating: “Care was delivered with kindness and compassion.
“Patients and their partners were involved, and emotional support was good, particularly in times of bereavement.”

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