FERYAL Clark, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Primary Care & Patient Safety, joined Jen Craft, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Thurrock, for a roundtable last week with local residents to hear about their experiences of using local maternity services.
Issues at Basildon University Hospital maternity unit have been well documented. The trust is one of the largest in England, serving a population of more than 1.2 million, with about 1,800 inpatient beds and 15,000 staff, and the maternity unit at Basildon delivers up to 350 babies per month.
Recent CQC inspections found that Basildon maternity unit did “not have enough nursing and midwifery staff to keep women and babies safe”.
Across the trust, inspectors found that not all staff completed mandatory training. They also found that maternity services did not have enough staff with the right qualifications, skills, training and experience to keep women safe, the trust did not always share learning from incidents, and that women using the trust’s maternity services were not always triaged within target times.
The report however commended the trust for collaboration, its complaints procedure, feedback system and “effective governance”, and the most recent CQC inspection last year upgraded the trust to “requires improvement”.
More recently, the use of Entonox (gas and air) as pain relief has been suspended for a second time. The first suspension occurred when it was found that staff at a maternity unit were exposed to almost 30 times the legal workplace limit for nitrous oxide in the air. The hospital took measures to improve ventilation, but it has now had to be suspended indefinitely.
At the roundtable, local women shared their experiences, which ranged from their birth plans being thrown out, having to be induced when their partners couldn’t be at the hospital, and not being able to access their preferred method of pain relief.
Jen Craft, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Thurrock, said:
“I want to thank Feryal and all the women who contributed to the discussion today on maternity care in Thurrock and Basildon. It is so important that women’s voices are heard.
“When you’re about to give birth, you need to feel confident that your birth plan can be followed and that your chosen method of pain relief is available to you. I’ve been hearing from lots of local women who are due to give birth in Basildon, who are very concerned by the suspension of gas and air and the well documented issues at the maternity unit.
“Some of the stories I have heard are truly heart-breaking and it is clear that more must be done to ensure the safety of patients in maternity units here and across the country.
“I know that midwives and all NHS staff are working incredibly hard and doing everything they can to ensure the safety of their patients, but after 13 years of the Conservative mismanagement of the NHS, they are too often left overstretched and under resourced.
“Many of the problems, including those at Basildon, are down to understaffing. I will continue to work with local people to make sure their voices are being heard, and I am backing Labour’s plan to provide the biggest expansion of NHS staff in history.”
Feryal Clark MP, Shadow Minister for Primary Care & Patient Safety, said:
“It is deeply concerning that the maternity services provided to women in Thurrock and Basildon have been found in such a dire state.
“When women are at their most vulnerable, they need to know that the NHS will be able to keep them and their baby safe.
“Sadly, these crises have been all too common across the country, and the Government have completely failed to get a grip.
“We need to see firm action now to address these issues, and ensure women’s safety is treated as a priority, not an afterthought.
“Labour will provide the biggest expansion of NHS staff in history. We will train 7,500 more doctors a year, 10,000 more nurses and midwives every year, double the number of district nurses qualifying, and 5,000 more health visitors, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status.”