Some maternity services at the troubled Furness General Hospital are to be temporarily moved to a neighbouring county in a bid to avert potentially dangerous levels of understaffing.
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said sickness absences in its maternity services and special care baby unit were approaching “levels where we would have further concern about the future safety of the service”.
From 5 February, its consultant-led maternity unit and special baby care unit will be temporarily transferred to the trust’s Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
Furness’s maternity unit was the flashpoint for a care scandal that engulfed Morecambe Bay in 2011, and is the focus of an ongoing police investigation into infant deaths. Earlier this month the trust also announced an internal inquiry into its maternity and neonatal services.
Interim trust chair Sir David Henshaw said: “Over the past eight weeks, we have been filling shifts with the goodwill of existing and agency staff but the situation has now risen to a level where this is not enough to ensure safe staffing levels.
“We have also encountered a marked increase in maternity sickness levels since the escalation of the ongoing police investigation.”
Nursing Times understands that police have recently begun interviewing some staff under caution.
Sir David said the trust was aiming to return the services to Furness as soon as safe and sustainable staffing levels could be achieved. A midwifery-led maternity service will be maintained at the hospital.
Trust chief executive Jackie Daniel added: “We will continue to work hard, together with the wider NHS to recruit more midwives and neonatal nurses.”
31 January 2013