Health bosses are reaching out to hospital trusts up to 200 miles away to share staff and expertise in a bid to improve under-fire maternity services.
Staff and resources at University Hospitals of Morecamb e Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT), which runs maternity units at Lancaster, Kendal and Barrow, could be shared with Coventry and Warwickshire Hospitals Trust.UHMBT is also looking at establishing a ‘pan Lancashire provider maternity network’ with Blackpool Teaching Foundation NHS Trust to “share experiences and opportunities to learn best practice”.
UHMBT put out an appeal for a partner to help deliver the maternity service, which has been the focal point of a care scandal in recent years.
The health trust received responses from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire Trust. (UHCW)
Mark Radford, Chief Nursing Officer at UHCW said: “The Trust is keen to support and help develop other maternity units who may benefit from our breadth of expertise.
“No formal bid has been made and discussions are still at an early stage.” The Trust is meeting with UHMBT in September.
According to UHMBT board papers, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust is not considering the suggestion to share staff or training resources but a spokesman said: “We have offered to work together with UHMBFT on an alternative approach, but these discussions have not progressed to any level of detail.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust declined to comment.
Sascha Wells, Deputy Director of Midwifery, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I would like to reassure women that we see all three of our maternity units being involved in this partnership.
“We are committed to ensuring we continue to improve our maternity services and we believe that a partnership with another NHS Trust would help create a pool of support, knowledge, education and information, ensuring that women and their families get the best maternity services the NHS can offer.”
“Working with another Trust as a maternity stability partner is a great opportunity for us to continue to improve our maternity services and maintain the momentum behind the significant changes we have already made.
“The offerings that have been proposed as part of the formal document received by other NHS Trusts were to share learning and support in relation to governance, such as training and lessons learnt; and the possible opportunity to share staff to ensure maternity staff from both organisations gain invaluable experience working in other units.
“It is important to note that we are at the very early discussion stages of the process and therefore, have not agreed any details or ideas of how the partnership could work.
“Any details, including how staff could potentially be shared between the two Trusts, would be developed in a planned and structured way, to ensure the care given at both Trusts would not be affected.”
An independent investigation has revealed that between 2004 and 2013, more than 200 deaths of mothers and babies occurred at Furness General Hospital, 50 of which have been identified for detailed analysis.
The investigation, chaired by Dr Bill Kirkup, is still ongoing.
In any given year, the approximate number of babies born across Morecambe Bay is 3,500, the same amount as at any small district general hospital, UHMBT said.
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust is involved, along with other local NHS organisations, in the ‘better care together’ review.
The review considers how the different parts of the health service can work together more effectively to ensure individual patients get the most appropriate care.
The ‘Better Care Together Strategy’ proposes that core services including maternity will be retained on all three hospital sites at Lancaster, Kendal and Barrow.