The combination of a high levels of staff sickness and an unusually high number of complications in births meant that many mums arriving at the Jessop Wing expecting to give birth at the city's maternity hospital on Tree Root Walk, near Broomhall, had to be sent out of the city to neighbouring town to give birth recently.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said induced labours and staff sickness led to the problems, and meant that even though the trust has recently recruited more midwives to its team, they were unable to bring in more people.
Hospital ‘did not close’
Professor Chris Morley, chief nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We did not close Jessop Wing but towards the end of last week we had a very unusual situation whereby we had an exceptionally high number of women who needed induction of labour or another intervention prior to delivering their baby at Jessop Wing.
“This was coupled with higher unexpected staff sickness than normal. The combination of these two things meant that we enacted the plans we have in place with other local maternity units to offer mutual support in busy times.
“This ensured that all women due to give birth would receive the appropriate care they needed. The majority of women went on to deliver their baby at Jessops (76) but a small number (21) did go to other local hospitals after careful assessment of their clinical needs by our team of midwives and obstetricians.
“All the women delivered their babies safely. By Sunday morning the arrangement with other hospitals was stood down as the situation was resolved. This was a rare situation which has not happened before and we are grateful for the support from our local hospital partners.”
Mums were sent to hospitals including Rotherham, Barnsley and Chesterfield.
Krishna Kallianpur, chief nurse at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “In partnership with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, we have supported seven of their maternity patients during labour (Wednesday, November 3 - Sunday November 7). Of these, five were spontaneous labour and two were booked in for inductions.
“All the ladies we saw on behalf of Jessops Hospital delivered safely and we wish them the best with their beautiful new babies.”
Downgraded to ‘inadequate’
It followed an unannounced investigation which began in March and found that, while the staff were no doubt committed and caring, there were a number of issues that required ‘urgent action’.
These included but were not limited to: a lack of effective systems to ensure staff could safely care for women and their babies; failure to investigate a number of deaths as serious incidents; lack of equipment checks and drills; and a shortage of midwives.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said that they had already started to address some of the issues highlighted.