The maternity unit at one of Norfolk's main hospital is ‘not safe’ for mothers and babies, inspectors have said.

The James Paget University Hospital has been threatened with a warning notice from the Care Quality Commission following a review of the department.

The scathing notice warns that staff shortages and feuding between midwives and doctors are compromising the safety of the mothers and babies in the hospital's care.

Hundreds of babies are born at the unit each year; 1,730 births were recorded in the most recent annual statistics (2021/22).

Eastern Daily Press: A survey has been launched by the James Paget hospital

Inspectors from the CQC visited the department last month and are preparing to serve a warning notice on the hospital.

The provisionary notice - seen by this newspaper - cites grave concerns about the culture in the department, which it says is negatively impacting new families.

It reads: "There were insufficient numbers of suitably qualified, skilled, competent and experienced staff in maternity services to keep women and babies safe from avoidable harm and meet their needs.

"There was a breakdown of relationship between the midwifery and obstetric staff.

"The culture within the service was having a negative impact on the safety and care provided for women."

However, the hospital's bosses currently have the opportunity to challenge the findings - meaning the notice is yet to be formally issued.

A spokesman for the James Paget said: "James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s maternity and midwifery service received a focused inspection from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) on 10-11 January 2023.

"The trust is in contact with the CQC following the inspection and awaits the release of the full report by the CQC, which is expected in March 2023.

"No immediate safety concerns have been issued to the Trust’s maternity and midwifery services, and it continues to operate safe services for local parents-to-be."

Carolyn Jenkinson, CQC’s deputy director of secondary and specialist healthcare, said: "We can confirm CQC has undertaken a focused inspection of maternity and midwifery services at James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. 

"Any enforcement action CQC may wish to take is currently subject to provider challenge.

"We will report further once we are able to do so."

It comes at a challenging time for maternity services nationwide - with midwives holding much-publicised demonstrations last year to highlight the same concerns that sparked the review.

Maternity services at both the Norfolk and Norwich and the Queen Elizabeth in King's Lynn are rated as requiring improvements by the CQC.

However, both recently earned praise in NHS patient surveys for making strides in their departments.

The JPH is the least busy of the three departments, with 2021/22 bringing 4,955 births at the NNUH and 1,980 at the QEH.

Eastern Daily Press: Alex Stewart, of Healthwatch Norfolk.

Alex Stewart, chief exeuctive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said the organisation was "very concerned" about the findings of the CQC.

He said: "I appreciate they are going to explain what they are doing to address the staff shortages but it is important there is a timeline and measured progress on this.

"It is also worrying that a breakdown in relationships between midwifery and obstetric staff was reported as having a negative impact on care and, again, we would want to know if that has been addressed and what monitoring is being done to ensure it does not happen again."

"Most importantly, patients need to be reassured that the necessary changes are being made to ensure safety and care of woman and babies is not affected by departmental disagreements and poor admin, and that the lack of qualified, skilled and competent employees is being addressed as a matter of urgency."