Investigated Furness General Hospital Maternity Unit 'Improves' Ahead Of Closure Deadline

Investigated Maternity Unit 'Improves' Ahead Of Closure Deadline

Bosses of a maternity unit at the centre of a police investigation said they have made "significant improvements" ahead of the deadline to raise standards or possibly face closure.

Detectives in Cumbria continue to probe a number of deaths - reportedly at least seven - at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria, which is part of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

The probe followed the inquest earlier this year into the death of Joshua Titcombe, of Dalton, nine days after his birth at the hospital in October 2008. The hearing in June ruled Joshua died of natural causes but that midwives had repeatedly missed opportunities to spot and treat a serious infection.

The trust was then criticised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after inspectors carried out surprise inspections at the ward in June. The report highlighted six areas of concern in care provision, including the safety and welfare of patients, suitability of maternity facilities and the degree to which staff worked together.

CQC officials confirmed it had the power to close the ward if it failed to meet standards.

Jackie Holt, the trust's director of nursing and modernisation, said: "Following the unannounced visits, the CQC identified a number of areas where they said we were not meeting their standards. We were, of course, extremely disappointed that concerns were found. It isn't acceptable and we have made significant improvements since then."

Last week the trust - which consists of hospitals in Barrow, Morecambe, Lancaster and Kendal - came under fire from one of its own consultants who told a local newspaper that the clinical staff had no respect for "a lame duck management".

Speaking anonymously to The Westmorland Gazette, he said: "There is far too much focus on empire building and not enough listening to clinical staff. They are obsessed with hitting targets and box ticking."

The consultant made the comments after it was revealed there had been a failure in the trust's follow-up appointments procedure. The whistleblower claimed more than 30,000 patients had been affected with possible delays in treatment of more than a year in some cases.

Trust chief executive Tony Halsall admitted there had been "a problem" with the system and that more than 800 patients had been identified as urgent or priority cases to be followed up.


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