Statement on downgraded Care Quality Commission (CQC) ratings for maternity services at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB)
In its decision to downgrade maternity services at provided by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) at Good Hope and Heartlands hospitals, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has highlighted serious issues which require urgent attention. Healthwatch Birmingham and Healthwatch Solihull share the CQC’s concerns around staffing levels, training issues, morale and failure to learn from mistakes having a detrimental impact on patient safety.
These problems in maternity services corroborate the wider issues with workplace culture at UHB exposed by Professor Mike Bewick’s recent investigation into patient safety at the Trust, and we anticipate further details in the forthcoming reviews into staff culture and leadership due to be published in July. That the overall CQC rating for maternity services at Good Hope Hospital has gone down from ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’ while Heartlands has deteriorated from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘inadequate’ – alongside being served a warning notice to urgently increase staffing levels and radically improve training – reinforces the importance of Healthwatch’s ground rules that these reviews must be independent, transparent and lead to immediate action if UHB’s deep-seated problems are to be tackled effectively.
We are pleased that the CQC identified areas of outstanding practice, particularly around support for diverse communities. However, the CQC report also highlights issues around women not being treated with dignity and respect, inappropriate behaviour towards those with English as a second language and poor attitudes among some staff. Alongside similar findings in our recent investigation into the experiences of Black African and Black Caribbean women using maternity services provided by Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust (SWB), this paints a worrying picture of inequalities in maternity services across Birmingham.
In the case of UHB, an important facet of this is the poor state of the physical environment at Heartlands, which has a particular impact on people living in a part of Birmingham that is both ethnically diverse and has high levels of deprivation. While it is imperative that UHB instigate immediate improvements to staff recruitment and training to address issues of inequality in care, we do recognise that additional capital investment will be needed to bring the facilities at Heartlands up to at least the same standard as those at Good Hope. This requires tangible support and resource from government, not just a commitment to change by the Trust itself.
Subsequent to the CQC report, Healthwatch Birmingham and Healthwatch Solihull have met with senior leaders at UHB and have been assured that they accept the CQC’s findings in full and are already taking action on the most urgent points. We will continue to monitor and hold UHB accountable for delivering these changes, while using our platform as the independent voice of local patients to advocate for better access to high quality maternity care for everyone in Birmingham and Solihull.
* Image by Bill Boaden, CC BY-SA 2.0, File:Good Hope Hospital (geograph 5622025).jpg – Wikimedia Commons