Midwifery staffing changes at hospital to cope with absentees

PUBLISHED: 06:47 08 May 2018

Weston General Hospital.

Weston General Hospital.

Archant

Staff shortages mean more midwifes will have to be based in the community rather than at Weston General Hospital over the summer.

‘Temporary’ changes to staffing structures have been forced upon Weston Area Health NHS Trust with some midwives on maternity leave and a number of staff being on long-term sick leave.

Pregnant women will still be able to give birth at the hospital 24/7, but will, as before, have to phone in ahead of arriving at Weston General after 10pm.

Sarah Dodds, Weston Area Health NHS Trust’s director of nursing, said: “We are making these temporary operational changes because the vacancy rate within the team is due to increase at the end of May.

“This means we must temporarily change how we deploy our staff to better support community activity such as providing antenatal and postnatal care to the 1,400 women in our area who use the service.”

In trust papers seen by the Mercury, the decision was one of three available.

Other options included working closely with University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) – but this was discounted due to its own staffing shortages – and using more agency staff.

The fragile future of maternity care in Weston has been evident since health chiefs revealed concerns last autumn over the costs of running the Ashcombe birthing ward.

North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group published an outline of changes to healthcare provision in the town within its Healthy Weston proposals and stated births will need to treble for the ward to be financially viable.

Thousands of people subsequently signed a petition to keep maternity services in Weston.

However, these changes are separate to the long-term talks.

Ms Dodds said: “We are making temporary changes to the way we staff our maternity service to ensure we can continue to support those women who choose to give birth at Weston General Hospital and those who want to give birth at home with the support of our midwives.”

“Pregnant women will be offered the same choice and level of service as they currently have.

“As before, all expectant mums will be given one number to ring when they go into labour. By phoning this number 24 hours a day, an on on-call midwife will be contacted to support expectant mums’ choice to give birth at Weston General or in their own home where clinically appropriate.

“We are working hard to recruit midwives, have a joint recruitment strategy in place with UHB and some interviews have already taken place.

“While these temporary changes are in place we will monitor the service daily, meet with our staff monthly to review the service and we will review the staffing of the service in three months’ time when we hope to have recruited sufficient midwives.”

Last month Weston’s midwives delivered 10 babies in the hospital and six at home.

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