COMMERCIAL: Hospital trusts up to 200 miles away from University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust have answered its appeal for a ‘maternity stability partner’, a role which could require sharing staff.

According to the trust’s August board papers, it received responses from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire Trust to its request for support. The bid process closed in July.

The trust said the stability partner would help to deliver the maternity service, which has been the focal point of a care scandal in recent years.

Morecambe Bay invited bids for two separate “offerings” in relation to the service.

Offering one was for a partner to share clinical good practice and support in relation to governance, including pooling training and sharing lessons learned.

Offering two involved sharing of staffing resources between Morecambe Bay and the partner.

Lancashire submitted a response in relation to offering one. The trust declined to comment on its bid.

Morecambe Bay’s board papers said that Blackpool’s response indicated it did not consider either of the offerings as ways it could offer assistance.

The FT suggested instead establishing a “pan Lancashire provider maternity network”.

This would provide a forum for member organisations to “share experiences and opportunities to learn best practice”.

A spokesman for Blackpool said discussions with Morecambe Bay had not yet “progressed to any level of detail”.

Coventry and Warwickshire indicated they would be interested in offering two but were not able to get their bid in before the deadline “due to staff absence”.

However, they are meeting with Morecambe Bay in September to “explore how a stability partner relationship could work”.

It is not clear how the West Midlands trust, which is a 200 mile drive from Furness General Hospital, would provide the sharing of staff resources involved in offering two.

Coventry and Warwickshire chief nursing officer Mark Radford said: “The trust is keen to support and help develop other maternity units [which] may benefit from our breadth of expertise. 

“No formal bid has been made and discussions are still at an early stage following one initial meeting so it is difficult to provide more detail at this time.”

Sue Smith, executive chief nurse at Morecambe Bay, said it had made “significant improvement” in its maternity services but wanted to take this to “the next level”.

She added: “We believe we can do this by working with another organisation to share governance processes and act as fresh eyes for each other - reviewing services and processes in a truly objective way.”

A series of maternal and infant deaths at Morecambe Bay’s Furness General Hospital between 2004 and 2013 is currently the subject of an independent investigation.