• Walsall Healthcare served with section 29a notice by the CQC over concerns about its maternity services
  • Regulator sent the notice in relation to CTG monitoring, staffing levels and safe guarding training
  • The trust has until 31 October to address the concerns
  • The CQC warned in June that the trust could face enforcement action if it did not address concerns

A trust in the West Midlands has been issued with enforcement action by the Care Quality Commission following concerns about an “oppressive” culture in its maternity department.

Walsall Healthcare Trust, which is rated inadequate, has been served with a section 29a notice over safety concerns related to its maternity services.

The trust was warned by the CQC in June that it could face enforcement action if it did not address concerns over “staffing and culture in maternity”.

Governing body papers published by Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group this month said the CQC described maternity services at the trust as having an “oppressive culture”.

In June, the trust told HSJ that the CQC had decided not to issue enforcement action after seeing its improvement plan.

However, the regulator has since sent the section 29a letter and has given the trust until 31 October to address its concerns.

Both the CQC and the trust refused to share a copy of the enforcement notice, but according to documents published by the CCG it relates to:

  • cardiotocography monitoring;
  • high dependency unit care provision;
  • safeguarding training; and
  • staffing levels.

The news follows an HSJ investigation that revealed that some babies have been seriously harmed due to the inability of staff to properly understand CTG monitoring, which measures a baby’s heart rate and mother’s contractions.

Concerns over the safety of maternity services at the trust were raised by the CQC in January 2016 when the trust was rated inadequate.

In response to the CQC’s report, the trust commissioned a review by Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which raised concerns about low staffing levels at its neonatal unit.

Following concerns raised in June this year, the trust has asked the Royal College of Obstetricians to review its maternity services.

Trust medical director Amir Khan said: “The trust was re-inspected by the CQC in June this year and it was recognised that we have made good progress across many of our services.

“The CQC was still concerned about maternity services and we know we still have more to do to improve staffing and culture and to step up the pace of change, and we are working closely with our new clinical leadership and their teams to achieve this.

“We have a robust action plan and sharing regular updates with the CQC.”