PERFORMANCE: A health trust whose maternity unit is at the centre of a police investigation has been issued a warning by Monitor, days after being rapped by the CQC for failing essential safety standards.

Detectives in Cumbria are currently investigating a number of deaths at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria, which is part of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust.

Monitor has given the entire trust a “red risk” rating, which places it under close scrutiny, on the back of a warning from the Care Quality Commission which pointed out a failure to improve standards on the labour ward.

The trust consists of hospitals in Barrow, Morecambe, Lancaster and Kendal.

The police probe follows the inquest earlier this year into the death of Joshua Titcombe, of Dalton, Cumbria, nine days after his birth at the hospital in October 2008.

The hearing in June ruled Joshua Titcombe also died of natural causes after his mother, Hoa, gave birth, but that midwives had repeatedly missed opportunities to spot and treat a serious infection.

A spokeswoman for Monitor said: “Following the warning notice issued by the CQC we have increased the trust’s governance risk rating to red and escalated the trust to consider whether it is in significant breach of its authorisation as a foundation trust. This means we will be placing the trust under close scrutiny and considering whether regulatory action may be required to address our concerns.

“These are very important issues for patients that must be resolved. As the quality and safety inspectorate for all NHS organisations we take the CQC’s advice very seriously, and we expect the trust to respond quickly and effectively to deliver the required improvements.

“Monitor and the CQC work closely to ensure NHS foundation trusts make improvements to patient services where they are needed.”

The trust was criticised by the CQC after inspectors carried out surprise inspections in June.

The report highlighted six areas of concern in care provision.

Among them were the safety and welfare of patients, the suitability of maternity facilities and the degree to which staff worked together.