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Turnround in fortunes for troubled Furness maternity unit
4:35pm Wednesday 19th September 2012 in News
A MATERNITY unit at the centre of a police investigation into baby deaths has been given the thumbs up by a health watchdog.
The unit at Furness General Hospital (FGH) is now meeting essential standards of quality and safety, according to the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
An inquest into the death of baby Joshua Titcombe, who died at the unit in 2008, sparked a major investigation into FGH and the wider management of the University of Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust (UHMBT), which runs the hospital.
The CQC carried out unannounced inspections at the trust’s maternity units at RLI on August 13 August and FGH on August 14.
UHMBT chairman Sir David Henshaw said: “As we have said before, we have badly let the public down in the past. Since then, staff across the trust have been working hard to put this right and we are now seeing real evidence of change and improvement.
“When I came to the trust in February, I knew that it was essential that we concentrated on making services safe and raise the bar in terms of what is an acceptable level of quality. This is evident across all outcomes reviewed. However, we know there is a still a lot to do in terms of making sure these improvements are sustainable in the long term.”
Joshua Titcombe’s father James, who has been campaigning for a public inquiry into the way the CQC and health watchdog Monitor oversaw the trust, said: "While it is good news that the CQC report shows improvements in maternity services at FGH, it is scandalous that standards were allowed to fall so low and risks to mothers and babies were allowed to continue for so long.
“It is vital now that FGH maintains a full and safe consult led maternity service and that the NHS both locally and nationally learns lessons to ensure these circumstances are never allowed to happen again. This is why we are calling for a full, wide ranging inquiry."
The CQC inspections were carried out to review actions taken to address issues previously identified and to check whether the trust was now compliant and meeting the essential standards in these areas.
The watchdog also spoke with staff and women within the maternity units to gather their opinions. Aspects covered by the inspections included cleanliness and infection control, the safety and suitability of premises and the assessment and monitoring of service provision quality.
Commenting on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report on maternity units in Barrow and Lancaster meeting all the essential standards of quality and safety,
Jacque Gerrard, director for England at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “I welcome this report which follows a lot of hard work by the midwifery staff at the trust.
"Services have improved significantly and women in the area will continue to receive safe and high quality care at these units, particularly now that standards of care have improved as identified
by the CQC.
“The RCM has supported staff on the ground throughout this process and have witnessed first-hand how hard the midwifery team have worked, with strong leadership from the head of midwifery.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the trust to ensure that standards remain high, and that women using the services can expect to get the high quality care they deserve.”
Meanwhile, an online petition demanding an independent inquiry into the way FGH was monitored has garnered more than 300 supporters, including CQC board member Kay Sheldon.
One of the latest to sign up is Barrow and Furness MP, who had previously opposed an inquiry. Mr Woodock said: “I am no longer convinced that an investigation of this kind need wait for the conclusion of criminal inquiries and urge the Department of Health to act now.”