Staffing crisis leads to move for Barrow Special Care Baby Unit
Last updated at 14:27, Friday, 21 December 2012
A STAFFING crisis has led to a life-saving children's service being merged into another area of Furness General Hospital.
The FGH Special Care Baby Unit is also set to change its cut-off point for which babies it will look after rather than transferring to other hospitals.
SCBU, which is set to be moved into a refurbished area of the hospital's maternity unit in spring 2013, will offer care for those born at a minimum of 34 weeks into pregnancy as opposed to the current 32 weeks.
The changes come after medical staff raised concerns over the safety of staffing levels in the unit.
SCBU has had various issues throughout the year, due to sickness and difficulty recruiting.
Sir David Henshaw is chairman of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs FGH.
He admitted some doctors are worried about the changes.
He said: "Paediatric consultants at FGH have stated that they recognise that there would be benefits by this move, but they have also raised additional staffing concerns.
"Let’s be absolutely clear, this move is about the safety of babies in our care. This is our priority. It is not about reducing staff.
“The clinical director and his team will now work in partnership with other clinicians to ensure these concerns are addressed before any moves takes place.”
FGH SCBU is a small neonatal unit that looks after up to six babies at a time.
The average daily occupancy is around three babies and two specially trained neonatal nurses are needed on each shift to be able to run the unit safely.
For this to be possible, 12 whole time equivalent nurses are needed 24/7.
Sir David said a team of clinicians had been given the green light to proceed with a business case to create an integrated unit.
On how the move came about, he said: “We have a duty to ensure that we constantly monitor all services to ensure they are safe and, when appropriate, to take the necessary action to mitigate against any risks.
"This is what our public and regulators rightly expect their doctors, nurses and midwives to be doing.
“A challenge of any small unit on the edge of a large geographical area, such as Barrow, is the ability to be able to ensure it is safely staffed at all times.
"The department has tried to recruit suitably qualified staff, including seeking assistance from a specialist hospital, however this has been unsuccessful.
“We have, therefore, approved the recommendation of doctors, midwives, nurses, obstetric and paediatric professionals to relocate the SCBU to a newly refurbished unit within the Maternity Ward – a short distance from where it is now, and closer to mothers.
“The trust board has approved the direction of travel and will ensure that all staff involved are consulted as plans progress."
As well as being moved, the types of cases the unit handles is also set to change.
Sir David said: "The move will also include a further, relatively small, change to the provision of neonatal services at FGH – the gestational age the unit looks after babies from will be amended from 32 to 34 weeks gestation.
"This means that a range of 12 to 20 babies may need to be transferred to other units each year, as is currently done with significantly premature babies.
"Pregnant women plan their care with their midwife from date of known pregnancy.
"Therefore, women who are identified at risk of delivering a baby prematurely have a specific birth plan in place and will be warned about the possibility of transfer during their pregnancy."
The change to SCBU will be led by Owen Galt, clinical director and consultant paediatrician, with the support of maternity, obstetric, nursing, and paediatric clinical colleagues.
"The team responsible will be liaising with local GP colleagues, commissioners, stakeholders and relevant bodies to ensure all women are fully informed before any move takes place.
Sir David Henshaw said: “As we have said previously, a larger review of all of our services is underway, and in the new year, the public, staff and stakeholders will have the opportunity to comment on their experiences in our hospitals and share their thoughts on the future of local healthcare services.
"However, as I’m sure you will all agree, it is only right that we address any risks that are brought to the
attention of the board in the meantime."
The move is set to be made in spring, when work to improve the area SCBU is being transferred into has been done.
In the meantime, UHMBT chief executive Jackie Daniel said, trust bosses will be working with paediatricians, obstetricians, specialist nurses, and midwives to make sure all safety concerns are addressed.
She added: “This move is designed to improve clinical pathways of care for our women and babies, with mums able to be closer to their new-born babies in many instances, whilst at the same time, improving relations and multi-disciplinary team working of paediatricians, obstetricians, specialist nurses, and midwives.
“Around 1,200 babies are born each year at FGH, and most women will not notice any change in the service we provide.
"This is because most babies are born at full term and do not need to use SCBU.
"Significantly premature babies are already transferred to other units, and this will continue to be the case, in partnership with the support of our neonatal network.
“We remain confident that we are providing safe maternity and SCBU services at FGH, and this move will further enable us to offer the best possible care to women and families in Barrow and surrounding areas."
First published at 14:26, Friday, 21 December 2012
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
Have your say
This is just another step in the Bay Trust plot to bring about the closure of the Barrow Maternity Unit. First tarnish their reputation, then blame the resulting recruitment problems for the next wave of inefficiencies, then eventually say the Unit will close because it is not fit for purpose.
It will be disastrous moving SCBU to Maternity for both maternity and neonatal staff who are trained in two different specialities one designed to care for 'well' babies and their mothers and another to support the needs of small or sick babies. It is inconceivable that the staff from each area will be required to 'support' colleagues if there are staffing issues! That is NOT to say that each is not confident and competent in their area of expertise but I would not want a neonatal nurse to deliver my baby or a midwife to care for my sick baby. Having watched from afar it seems to me that this is about money and downgrading the unit and as I have seen in my own area this could be a reality! The midwives and neonatal nurses at FGH have been ground down, disrespected and only just managing to keep afloat. It seems that every time morale starts to improve yet another thing will hit your paper. I can only praise them for their courage and determination to give a quality safe service in the face of it all. The future remains to be seen but be warned women of Barrow, you need to fight for these services and not give into those who appear to be happy to take or limit, the services. Please spare a thought for the staff who are still under attack, serving your needs this Christmas
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