Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

More maternity improvement needed

A baby
Special measures were imposed last year

Maternity services in Gwent are to remain in "special measures" after a review by health inspectors.

Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) said standards of care for mothers and babies had improved significantly, but further work was required.

Special measures were imposed last year when Health Minister Edwina Hart said maternity services were "unacceptable".

Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust said it accepted the review's findings, and added that safety was a "top priority".

HIW's review also looked at community and mental health services in Gwent and found challenges remained in delivering services in that area.

Its decision to examine maternity services was taken after six maternal deaths at the trust between 2005 and November 2007.

I am content that both services have now improved considerably, and patients now receive safer, more effective care
HIW chief executive Peter Higson

An initial inspection in April 2008 concluded there was no common link between the tragedies, but HIW found inadequacies in the management and staffing of maternity services.

As a result of that inspection, the maternity services were placed in special measures, and the trust had to draw up an action plan to address concerns.

But since then HIW said there had been clear improvements.

HIW chief executive Peter Higson said: "Maternity and community and mental health services provide people with care when they are most vulnerable and most in need of help and support.

"We therefore need to be assured that patients and their families receive the care we expect.

"It is clear from HIW's reports that this has not always been achieved by Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust, despite the best efforts of frontline staff."

He added: "I am content that both services have now improved considerably, and patients now receive safer, more effective care.

"Further work is needed to ensure planned changes in the way maternity services are provided to ensure sustainability of the necessary improvements and that is why it remains in special measures and will continue to receive support from HIW and the assembly government."

Acting chief executive of Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust Andrew Cottom said: "Safety is a top priority for the trust.

"We accept the findings of these reports and have introduced measures to address them. We apologise for any deficiencies in the service provided to patients in Gwent".

Health minister Edwina Hart added: "I am assured that the services have improved and that the service is safe.

"However, more needs to be done and HIW is keeping the maternity service in special measures to ensure the improvements are sustained."

The Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport was forced to close its doors to women with high-risk pregnancies on 9 May last year after its special care baby unit was full. It was later re-opened.

At the time, The Royal College of Midwives claimed services in south east Wales were under-staffed.

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