"Positive signs of improvement" at Bedford Hospital's maternity unit says chief nurse

Bedfordshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is receiving additional help to improve services
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Bedfordshire Hospital's maternity unit is seeing 'really positive signs of improvement' after an 'in-depth' plan was started to address Care Quality Commission's (CQC) recommendations.

The CQC visited Bedford Hospital's maternity department in November 2020, and carried out an unannounced follow-up visit in June 2021.

Bedford Borough Council's Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee's informal meeting on Monday (January 17) heard that the visit identified and acknowledged a "significant" number of areas of positive practice and "safe, effective and well-led quality care".

The CQC visited Bedford Hospital's maternity departmentThe CQC visited Bedford Hospital's maternity department
The CQC visited Bedford Hospital's maternity department

Liz Lees, chief nurse at Bedfordshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, told the committee: "In June 2021, the CQC did another unannounced inspection on the Bedford site.

"[The findings] really do acknowledge that while the team was still relatively new, there were certainly some really positive signs of improvement.

"While they didn't re-rate us, it was just an unannounced inspection, some of the feedback was really positive," she added.

Emma Hardwick, director of midwifery, spoke about some of the additional help the Trust was receiving to improve services

"We participate in the National Maternity Safety Support Programme," she said.

"We have a maternity improvement advisor who visits us on a regular basis. and I think this is really helpful and provides a level of assurance to us of the actions we are pursuing.

"We also participated in a 60 steps assessment visit at the end of last year with a maternity team from NHSI [NHS Improvement] which again provided some really positive feedback.

"That second level assurance coming from outsiders is very important to us," she added.

Committee chair, councillor Graeme Coombes (Conservative, Wilshamstead Ward) asked if the Trust was due any further CQC inspections.

Ms Lees replied: "We work very closely with our CQC colleagues, we meet them on a monthly basis and we share information with them.

"So far we haven't had any additional information about when they might come. I'm sure they will come again, but we're not sure when that is yet."

Councillor Coombes followed up by asking: "Is there a part of the process by which they sort of sign it off and say after having made the initial concerns that they would say 'okay, we're satisfied'."

Ms Lees said: "I think it will come to that point, but that will involve a change of rating, which will require a full inspection.

"The inspection from November only inspected three of the domains, there's five in the CQC.

"They will do a full service review I'm certain at some point, which might be part of a larger wider organisational one," she added.

David Carter, chief executive, Bedfordshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: "One of the things that we may want to do is to invite them back in, because we certainly don't want to have the current rating for any longer than we think that is fair.

"Given where we are in terms of improving, I would certainly be disappointed if they didn't come back in relatively early on in our journey.

"I'd just like to acknowledge the incredible hard work over recent months of our maternity staff in what has been incredibly challenging circumstances.

"I think the unit is definitely making progress, both in delivering on the actions that we've agreed, but also I think improving how it feels to be a member of staff within the unit and how that translates to the services that we provide."