Midwife shortage to be investigated as part of review into Cwm Taf maternity services

(Title Image: Cwm Taf Health Board)

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), has ordered an independent review into maternity services at Cwm Taf health board – which serves Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil and, from next year, Bridgend – after 44 incidents, revised up from 43 (including the deaths of 26 babies) between 2016-2018.

It comes just days after the issue of stillbirths was discussed by AMs.

“When women go into hospital, we rightly expect them to have good quality, safe care. Childbirth can be stressful, but also an experience that brings joy, so the welfare of women and babies must be our immediate concern. I’ve made it clear, through my conversation with the health board chair, that I expect every possible action to be taken to provide assurance that services are providing safe and compassionate care.”
– Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething

The Health Secretary said staff would be supported through this with 15 midwives and additional clinical leadership appointed. A number of procedural changes have also been introduced to improve patient safety and improve incident reporting.

Warning signs were ignored

Shadow Health Secretary, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.), spoke of a couple who discussed some of the warning signs which were ignored:  consultants being unexpectedly put on rotas, babies being moved to new hospitals or put in cold cots and a complete lack of compassion from the health board who palmed off complaints.

“They were essentially palmed off to a junior staffer who was reluctant to engage. There seemed to be a total lack of compassion at their lowest ebb, a dismissive attitude, a dragging of heels, no apology of any meaning—and I’m not talking about financial, I’m talking about the sincerity level— and there was no timely response to letters.”
– Shadow Health Secretary, Angela Burns AM

She hoped lessons will be learned as the NHS in Wales undertakes a centralisation programme.

“Moving on to staff. It’s been heavily implied that staff shortages are a factor here. Your statement says that one doctor and 15 midwives have been recruited, with 4.8 whole-time equivalent midwives starting this week. “
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn)

No concerns in other health boards

The Health Secretary said he wasn’t aware of similar concerns in other health boards, but all of them have been contacted to give assurances of the quality of care they’re providing.

He didn’t accept that the health board were underplaying the seriousness of the challenge, but he made it clear that, as several AMs raised, staff shortages were one potential factor behind it. Neither did he believe the forthcoming merger with Bridgend has had any impact:

“I’m not aware that the proposed merger has had any impact on the delivery of services; it’s not been a point that’s been raised by anybody with concerns that, somehow, that’s a factor in the quality of care, and in this cluster of cases of concern.”
– Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething

The head of midwifery at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board is due to work with Cwm Taf temporarily to provide senior midwifery support.

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