Interim review complete on transformation of acute maternity services

New born baby

An interim review of the transformation of acute maternity services in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT) has been completed.

It follows a recommendation by the Board of the Northern Trust, approved by the Permanent Secretary Peter May in June, that all hospital births should take place at Antrim Area Hospital.

A 14-week public consultation around the transformation was carried out between November 2022 and March 2023, after clinicians advised that the provision of maternity services at Causeway Hospital was unsustainable due to falling birth rates, workforce challenges, and the absence of a neonatal unit.

The new model came into effect on 17 July 2023.

In response to ongoing concerns from some elected representatives, campaign groups and service users, Northern Trust Chief Executive Jennifer Welsh offered to carry out an interim two-month review of the service change.

The review looked at the period from 17 July to 18 September 2023.

“The reconfiguration of our maternity services came into effect in July, and represented a significant milestone in transformation of our health and social care system at a regional level,” said NHSCT Chief Executive, Jennifer Welsh.

“Change is not always easy, and we recognise this was a very emotive issue, not just for our service users and community, but for our staff too. While it is still early days, I am really pleased at how our teams have adapted and embraced the new model. I’m also encouraged by the feedback from women in our care which has been largely very positive.

“Providing the highest standard of care to women and babies has been, and remains, our priority, and this review demonstrates that the transition to moving all hospital births to Antrim has been done safely and effectively.”

Work to provide additional capacity at Antrim’s maternity unit is complete. The service has been further enhanced to provide a day obstetric unit for scheduled appointments, and an emergency obstetric unit for unscheduled attendances 24/7.

Theatre sessions for elective Caesarean sections have also been increased and a midwifery coordinator role has been created to ensure efficient flow of activity across the service.

All 321 women who had their babies at Antrim Area Hospital in August were invited to provide feedback via a survey. To date, 52 responses have been received.

There have been no formal complaints from service users since the new model became operational.

Ms Welsh said: “While we recognise that this is a relatively small sample survey, we are reassured by the overwhelmingly positive response from those women who have shared their feedback with us.

“77% of women who responded were very satisfied or satisfied with the care they received, while less than 10% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

“We have considered all the feedback in detail and, where women have not felt satisfied with the care they received, we have listened, and their experience is already helping to shape our actions around quality improvement.”

The survey asked for detailed feedback on how the service could be improved with four key themes emerging:

  • perception of maternity ward being “very busy” or “short-staffed”
  • concern around delays to planned induction of labour to manage activity during busy periods
  • efficiency of outpatient clinics
  • more support for first-time mothers

Ms Welsh added: “We are committed to providing a safe and positive experience for all women in our care, their babies and their families, so having women’s feedback is vital as it provides us with meaningful insights on areas for improvement and learning.

“I would encourage anyone who is accessing our maternity services to please consider sharing your experience – good or bad – with us, via our Care Opinion platform.”

A six month review of the transition of acute maternity services will be carried out in the new year, focusing on the period since the new model becoming operational in July until mid-January 2024.

Service users can leave comments or feedback about their experience via the online Care Opinion platform www.careopinion.org.uk.

Transformation of Acute Maternity Services: Interim two-month review

19th October 2023

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