Maternity chiefs set for grilling following Bedford Hospital ‘inadequate’ rating

Bedford Hospital (Photo: Dr Robert Oakley)

Maternity chiefs are set to be grilled by councillors about their improvement plans after inspectors found there was a risk of baby abduction at Bedford Hospital.

During a surprise Care Quality Commission (CQC ) inspection at the South Wing site in November 2020 inspectors, who were reacting to 14 whistleblower concerns, found so many issues they rated the service “inadequate.”

The service, which supported 2,820 mums to give birth in 2019/2020, had not improved since 2018 when improvement notices were issued following a more formal inspection.

Now on Monday (April 19) the top maternity team from Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is set to appear at Bedford Borough Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee to explain what is happening at Bedford.

Since November’s report, a new top team has been brought in, including Emma Hardwick, as trust director of midwifery, Tara Pauley, as Bedford’s head of midwifery, and chief nurse Liz Lees.

Emma Hardwick has been appointed the new Director of Midwifery

In response to concerns that anyone could in theory walk in off the street and abduct a baby, a report prepared for the committee says new security measures have been put in place.

These include using a swipe card instead of pressing an exit button at a rear stairwell and staff being reminded to check and challenge people.

They are also reviewing an abduction policy, which staff could not find during the November inspection.

A swipe card exit for the Orchard ward and abduction drill exercises are also being implemented.

During a recent scrutiny meeting at Central Bedfordshire Council, the trust chief executive David Carter said “covid hasn’t helped” against a backdrop of a national shortage of midwives.

They have changed the way they support the unit which is smaller than the one at Luton and Dunstable Hospital and sees between five and 15 births a day.

Despite its management challenges, Mr Carter said they have had really positive feedback from our patients, “but we’ve got a significant piece of work to do”.

He added: “We can’t expect the unit to be in a better place overnight, but I’m very confident about the progress we’re making.”

Members of the public can watch the meeting from 6.30pm on Monday (April 19) on the council’s YouTube channel here.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter