University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust is prepared to further scrutinise midwives to check whether they were competent to deliver safe care in recent years, its chief executive has told Nursing Times
Jackie Daniel said that in light of a highly critical independent report released yesterday, the trust’s board would now “go through all the detail” of the document to identify whether any more instances of potentially unsafe practice by clinicians needed to be looked at.
She confirmed to Nursing Times that a “handful” of midwives who were directly involved in the cases highlighted by the Morecambe Bay Investigation – which identified “serious and shocking” failures that led to the deaths of mothers and babies – still work at the trust.
“We will to go back through all the detail [of the independent report] to satisfy ourselves that there aren’t any other cases that we now need to look at”
Internal investigations into the conduct of seven midwives that worked during the period the independent inquiry was concerned with – from January 2004 to June 2013 – had already been concluded, she said.
As a result of this, two midwives were dismissed. All seven have also been referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which is yet to conclude its investigations, said Ms Daniel.
The chief executive added that five doctors had been subject to internal investigations – all of whom were referred to the General Medical Council – and one had since been dismissed.
“We will want to work with the NMC and GMC to make sure those [regulator investigations] are concluded,” said Ms Daniels in an interview with Nursing Times.
She added: “We will also want, as a trust board – because we have seen the report for the first time today – to go back through all the detail to satisfy ourselves that there aren’t any other cases that we now need to look at.
“If we need to do that, we will,” she said. “If there is a need to take further action then we will take that.”
“We still have a long way to go and I will need [staff] to play their part and feel supported”
Ms Daniel said the trust had seen “a lot of turnover” among frontline staffing in recent years. She said it had recruited 40 new midwives in the past two years, representing a 20% turnover of midwifery staff at the organisation.
Discussions of a large-scale audit of skills at the trust – potentially involving local universities – and how to introduce the “whistleblowing guardian” roles suggested in last month’s Freedom to Speak Up Review were now taking place, she said.
Ms Daniel also noted that the trust had been one of the first to sign up to Nursing Times’ Speak Out Safely campaign, which encourages organisations to support their staff in raising concerns about care or safety.
She added that she hoped staff at the trust recognised how they had driven some of the improvements made so far at the organisation.
“Nevertheless we still have a long way to go and I will need them to play their part and feel supported,” she said.
The Morecambe Bay Investigation noted that even though steps had been taken to improve the trust’s maternity unit at Furness General Hospital – such as the appointment of a new head of midwifery and regular multidisciplinary meetings to discuss incidents – it still had “significant concerns”.
The panel said it heard evidence that “untoward incidents with worryingly similar features to those seen previously had occurred as recently as mid-2014”.
Ms Daniel said the trust would fully implement all 18 of the investigation’s recommendations aimed directly at the trust.
“We need to look to system as a whole and how it works with regulators – but frontline staff are the first line of assurance and so our job as a board is to make sure we have the right environment for those conditions to flourish,” she told Nursing Times.