The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found improvements in the care being provided in maternity services run by County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust - but says more is needed to get it to the required standard. 

Following an inspection in January this year, the overall rating for maternity services at two of the Trust's hospitals improved from inadequate to requires improvement.

Despite the upgrade of the rating from the CQC, the inspection body says that there are still steps that the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust have to take to get it up to the top level of ratings.

An unannounced focused inspection was carried out at the University Hospital of North Durham and Darlington Memorial Hospital during January's visits, which gave inspectors insight into the Trust's maternity practices.

This was to follow up on the progress of improvements they were told to make in a warning notice CQC issued after their previous inspection in March last year.

The Northern Echo: Darlington Memorial HospitalDarlington Memorial Hospital (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

Following this latest inspection, CQC determined the trust had met the terms of the warning notice and it has been removed.  

The overall rating for both hospitals has improved from requires improvement to good, and the trust remains rated as good overall.

In the report, inspectors found at both hospitals that staff understood how to protect women and people using the service from abuse, the service now had enough equipment and staff were trained to use it, there was improved incident reporting, and leaders and staff had strengthened their engagement with people, staff, equality groups, and local organisations to plan and manage services.

However, inspectors also highlighted things for the Trust to improve on, including that staff still did not always complete environmental and emergency equipment safety checks, following trust policy, and that staff did not ensure all medicines and sterile consumable items, were stored, managed, and replaced timely, and before expiry dates.

The Northern Echo: University Hospital of North DurhamUniversity Hospital of North Durham (Image: GOOGLE MAPS)

Following the inspection, Linda Hirst, CQC deputy director of operations for the north, said:  “When we inspected maternity services at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, we were pleased to find the trust had made improvements since our inspection in March last year. Leaders were now more visible and approachable to staff, and a new director of midwifery had been appointed, therefore we expect to see further improvements next time we visit.

“We found improvements in the management of incidents. For example, we reviewed four serious incidents and found the service now implemented much better action plans in response to investigating findings.

"This ensured lessons were learnt and women, people using the service and their babies were receiving safer care as a result."

The CQC deputy director of operations for the north added: “There had also been some improvements around staffing and ongoing recruitment.

"However, both services didn’t always have enough senior, experienced midwives on labour wards which needs to be addressed as a priority.

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“We did have some other areas of concern including timely inductions of labour to meet people’s needs, which weren’t always happening at either hospital. Although oversight of these delays had improved, new processes put in place to improve them weren’t fully embedded yet.

“Staff had worked hard since our previous inspection to improve the quality of care they were delivering to people, and they know where further improvements are needed so people receive the high standard of care they deserve.

“We will continue to monitor the trust, including through future inspections, to ensure the trust builds on the improvements it has already made, and further changes are made and embedded.”

Noel Scanlon, Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, “We are pleased that the latest CQC report recognises the improvements we have put in place across our maternity services since the previous inspection.

"The new rating is a positive step forward on our continuing improvement journey. Our dedicated teams have implemented robust measures to enhance the safety, quality, and experience of our maternity services.

"While we recognise this progress, we remain fully aware that there is still work to be done and have already begun to deliver on an action plan with defined timescales and measurable improvements. 

"Our commitment to excellence drives us to continually strive for the highest standards of care. We will continue to listen to feedback from patients, families, and colleagues to identify areas where we can make further improvements. Our aim is to ensure that every family feels supported, empowered, and safe throughout their maternity journey.”