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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Perfect storm led to crisis at Barrow maternity unit

THE chairman of the trust which runs Furness General Hospital has defended the way the maternity staffing crisis was handled.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust confirmed on Tuesday the temporary move of FGH’s consultant-led maternity unit and Special Care Baby Unit to Lancaster had been cancelled.

Sir David Henshaw, the interim chairman of UHMBT, who is due to hand over to successor John Cowdall at the end of February, said the trust’s leadership of the situation had been underpinned by a primary concern to ensure safety.

Sir David insisted the board had carried out a full risk assessment of the threats posed by transferring services to Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

He also said the trust consulted fully with all relevant bodies such as the North West Ambulance Service and the GP commissioners and it was “never a case of the trust not asking for help”.

Sir David revealed the potential of moving services from the RLI to FGH was considered “very briefly”.

But, ultimately, he said that was never a realistic option because doing so would have left no level-two SCBU provision between Preston and Carlisle.

Sir David said the staffing issue had been under review “for months and months” and was “the critical concern for the board”.

He said the stress-related sickness of staff during police investigations into maternity deaths had not been the only factor behind absences – but the major part of a “perfect storm” of factors which led to “an extraordinary level of sickness”.

Sir David said: “We dealt with a potentially unsafe situation very well and handled it very well.

“Had we not made that decision and something terrible had happened, it would have been absolutely appalling.”

Sir David said resources were in place to staff rotas until February 17 and work was ongoing to extend beyond that point.

He said, in addition to the national shortage of nurses, Barrow struggles to recruit neo-natal nurses.

As part of the solution to solve the staffing crisis, a neo natal nurse has been allowed to leave her old job to join FGH without working full notice.

And the trust has linked into another northern hospital trust’s recruitment process.

Sir David said a forward plan would be taken to the board meeting on February 19.

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