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Milton Keynes Hospital has been told to appoint a team of external expert clinical advisors to speed up improvements to its maternity department.
The intervention's been ordered by Monitor - the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts.
It comes after a Care Quality Commission report earlier this year highlighted improvements which need to be made on the unit. They include the recruitment of more midwives and an increase in the number of beds.
The CQC report was done following an inquest in to the death of baby Ebony McCall on the unit in May 2009. The deputy Coroner at the inquest for that case concluded the death was contributed to by systematic failures in maternity and neo natal care at the Trust. These failures ocurred despite these issues being highlighted in a Healthcare Commission report on maternity services at Milton Keynes in December 2008.
Monitor says the regulatory action has come after a failure by the trust to take quick enough action to address the concerns which were raised. Although there's an action plan in place to deal with the recommendations of the Healthcare Commission report, Monitor feels the Milton Keynes Trust board failed to make sure the improvements were done quickly enough.
The decision to intervene was taken by Monitor's Board at its meeting on 2nd March 2010. Monitor says its aim is to ensure swift progress to safeguard future access to high quality maternity care in Milton Keynes.
If Milton Keynes NHS Foundation Trust fails to take quick and effective action to make the improvements, Monitor will consider further regulatory action.
Terry McCall - whose Grandaughter Ebony died at the unit in May 2009 - has welcomed the intervention:
"By having an independent set of experts come in over the management team at Milton Keynes Hospital, I feel is going to prevent it being tucked away under the carpet. It will expose all of the problems in a serious way and make serious attempts to address all of the shortcomings within the hospital itself."
In a statement, Milton Keynes Hospital said:
The Trust Board is appointing additional expert clinical support to help us to deliver our action plan for maternity services more quickly and effectively, as required by Monitor.
The plan is already well underway and more midwives are joining the Trust over the next two months to add to the existing team.
Chairman Dr Walter Greaves said today: “We are pleased that Monitor has examined our plan with such care and we look forward to working with these experts. We will be working as hard as we can to ensure the very best of care for local people throughout our hospital.
“Our maternity department provides a safe and quality service for local mothers, many of whom compliment us on the care they and their babies receive. I would like to reassure local women they can feel entirely safe coming to Milton Keynes Hospital to have their babies.”
Dr Nicholas Hicks, Chief Executive of NHS Milton Keynes and Director of Public Health, said: “NHS Milton Keynes has been working closely with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Monitor, the national regulators that have powers not available to local NHS commissioners.
“We welcome the decision announced by Monitor this evening (3/3) which requires the hospital to appoint external expert clinical advisers.
“The safety and quality of the care provided by all NHS organisations in Milton Keynes is of paramount importance to us all and we therefore welcome the steps taken to help accelerate the delivery of improvements within the hospital’s maternity service.
“We are confident the people of Milton Keynes value their local hospital, but it must continue to improve if it is to meet future challenges – ensuring standards in patient care improve and the NHS pound goes further. NHS Milton Keynes will continue to support and work with the hospital, the CQC, Monitor and other partners to ensure patients receive the quality of care they deserve.
“We hope this intervention will improve public confidence in the service.”