The maternity unit at one of Norfolk’s biggest hospitals has been rated ‘inadequate’ after inspectors ruled it was “not safe” for mothers and babies.

Concerns about James Paget University Hospital’s maternity ward having insufficient and under-trained staff were highlighted by the Care Quality Commission.

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

Issues raised during the inspection, which took place in January, included:

  • Safety incidents going unreported, including instances of mothers suffering haemorrhages 
  • Inductions of high-risk mothers being delayed due to staff shortages
  • Patients left unattended while waiting to be admitted or have their care escalated
  • Midwives left to work long shifts without breaks due to a lack of cover
  • Staff not being provided with sufficient training to meet the needs of mothers and babies
  • 'Safety huddles' for workers to discuss their patients' needs and risks were not always held and were 'poorly attended'

Bosses at the Gorleston hospital say that it has "worked quickly" to address the concerns and was ramping up its recruitment.

But staff told inspectors the department suffered from a culture in which they did not feel respected or confident in raising any concerns of their own.

The report read: "Staff did not always feel respected, supported and valued, but were focused on the needs of women receiving care."

Carolyn Jenkinson, CQC deputy director of operations, said: "It is concerning that the quality and safety of maternity care at the James Paget has deteriorated.

"We found that women and people using the service as well as their babies were not receiving the safe care they should.

"Leaders need to do more to have better management of the service and support staff with good policies and processes to help them keep people safe.

"Staff worked hard and were focused on the needs of people receiving care, but people couldn't access the service when they needed it and sometimes they waited too long for treatment which put them at risk."

Questions were also asked about the way the hospital dealt with infection control in the ward.

One particular incident was highlighted in which a midwife continued to work despite being unwell.

The report reads: "The service did not have enough maternity staff with the right qualifications, skills, training and experience to keep women safe from avoidable harm and to provide the right care and treatment."

Following the inspection, the hospital was issued with a warning notice - with the department's rating also dragging down the overall status of the hospital.

Previously, it was the region's only hospital to be rated 'good' overall - but this has been downgraded to 'requires improvement', the second lowest rating overall.

Eastern Daily Press: Jo Segasby, chief executive of the James Paget University HospitalJo Segasby, chief executive of the James Paget University Hospital (Image: JPUH)

Jo Segasby, chief executive of the James Paget, said: "On behalf of our trust, I want to apologise to our patients and communities.

"Our hospital accepts the CQC report and the clear actions that need to be taken to improve maternity services.

"Since receiving the warning notice in February this year, we have worked quickly to make the immediate improvements required.

"This includes investing in and recruiting additional medical and midwifery staff to support the care received by those giving birth, and their families, as well as staff to improve effective safety reporting and monitoring arrangements.

"I want to emphasise that our maternity services continue to provide compassionate care to people giving birth and their babies, and we are working together as a hospital to plan and make improvements."

Stephen Jarvis, interim chair of the hospital, added: "Our maternity services are working hard to evolve the culture of leadership and responding to concerns when they rise, and the CQC's assessment shows where we need to apply further focus."