STRUCTURE: Restricting University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay’s troubled Furness General Hospital maternity unit to low-risk births could help take pressure off of its stretched paediatric services, an external review has advised.

The review of the trust’s paediatric services was commissioned by NHS Cumbria as part of an effort to help the foundation trust improve quality following a series of high-profile care failures, particularly at the Furness maternity unit.  

Its preliminary report - which was written by retired paediatricians Alan Craft and Alastair Campbell and submitted to the FT’s board at the end of July - identified a number of concerns with the paediatric service.

There were “in effect” three doctors on the consultant-delivered night-time rota, with one providing 40 per cent of night-time cover. The review team, which visited the hospital in January, found that consultants were given “no compensatory rest” and there were occasions when “one doctor was on call for four days and four nights”.

They concluded that the trust’s plan to provide “a 24-hour consultant delivered service with eight consultants may be impractical due to [a] lack of junior staff”.

“A 24 hour consultant-only delivered service would require at least 10 or 11 posts. However, there would be insufficient work to occupy such doctors when they are not on call,” they said.

“We recommend that consideration be given as part of future service planning to changing Furness General Hospital paediatrics into an ‘8 til late’ [service], or similar.”

It added: “Further selection of pregnant mothers to ensure that only low risk deliveries occur in the Furness General Hospital would further diminish the need for consultant paediatric input.”

UHMB’s new chief executive Jackie Daniel said service changes would be “clinically and patient led”.

“These reports will be considered as part of this process. No decisions have been taken yet on the future of these services - other than that they must be safe, sustainable and meet national best practice,” she added.