An experienced midwife is to join University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust as part of continuing efforts to improve its maternity services.
The trust, together with the regulator Monitor, has confirmed today that Gill Walton has been appointed to the post of maternity improvement director.
“Part of my role will be to act as a ‘critical friend’ to the trust”
Ms Walton, an experienced director of midwifery, will join the trust for a period of up to six months, starting at the end of February.
She will work alongside an existing improvement director and trust managers to help ensure improvements identified by the Care Quality Commission last year are fully implemented and that the quality of services continues to improve in a “sustainable way”.
The trust was rated “inadequate” by the CQC in 2014 and put into special measures. Its rating was upgraded to “requires improvement” in December 2015 following an inspection in July and was judged to have improved sufficiently to leave the support regime for struggling providers.
The regulator said it was happy that “steady progress” was being made to meet the recommendations made by Dr Bill Kirkup in March, following his high profile investigation into a number of maternal and baby deaths at its Furness Hospital.
Maternity expert to help Morecambe Bay improve
However, the CQC found staffing levels on two wards at Royal Lancaster Infirmary were still “variable” and there was a reliance on bank and agency staff in “some areas”.
The CQC noted that the trust still had to make “significant and sustainable” improvements in maternity services, and had “some complex staffing issues to address with regards to professional relationships and culture within some teams”.
Ms Walton’s appointment also comes in the same week that the independent review of maternity services in England published its findings.
The review, chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, was commissioned last year by NHS England partly in response to Dr Kirkup’s investigation into Morecambe Bay.
- Call for ‘radical’ changes to maternity staffing models
- Review warns of ‘lack of respect’ between maternity staff
- ‘Distressingly’ wide variation in quality of maternity services
Ms Walton will remain as director of midwifery at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, while undertaking the specialist role at Morecambe Bay on a part-time basis.
She has previously led several maternity change programmes, and is a member of professional advisory groups at both the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Royal College of Midwives.
“There are a number of key areas that need further work and Gill’s input and oversight will be invaluable”
Jackie Daniel, chief executive of Morecambe Bay, said: “I am delighted that Gill has agreed to this appointment. Her experience will be of great benefit as we continue with our immediate ambitions of ensuring all of our maternity services are rated ‘good’, at the very least.
“We have continued to make good progress in improving our maternity services, and are nearing the end of fully implementing all of the recommendations from last year’s Kirkup Report,” she said.
”However, there are a number of key areas that need further work and Gill’s input and oversight will be invaluable,” she added.
Ms Walton said: “I am looking forward to working with Monitor and the team at Morecambe Bay.
“Part of my role will be to act as a ‘critical friend’ to the trust, and I know from initial discussions that the teams are as passionate as I am about providing the very best standards of care for the women and families of Morecambe Bay,” she said.
Sue Smith, the trust’s executive chief nurse, said she and head of midwifery Sascha Wells looked forward to working with Ms Walton to help sustain improvements being made to maternity services.
“This is a fantastic opportunity and we are looking forward to the next chapter,” she said.