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Fifty six posts remain unfilled despite improving staff shortages at Nottingham City Hospital and Queens Medical Centre maternity units

Maternity departments at two hospitals still have a shortage of 56 staff members — but leaders said it is an improvement on 2022 vacancy rates.

The Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, which runs the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital, is rated ‘requires improvement’ for its maternity services.

Experienced midwife Donna Ockenden is also conducting a review into maternity failures at the trust.

Queen's Medical Centre. Credit: LDRS
Queen's Medical Centre. Credit: LDRS

At the trust’s board meeting on January 11, Becky Gray, head of midwifery for quality risk and safety said there is still a shortage in midwifery and obstetrics.

Currently, there is a 12.9% vacancy rate for full-time roles within maternity services across Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital, meaning just over one in ten posts are unfilled.

This marks a significant improvement on the previous year’s vacancy rate of 25.8%, or around 123 full-time vacancies, and about one in four posts.

The trust has said measures are in place to recruit more staff, including offering more support and development to student midwives, recruiting internationally and making some flexible contracts permanent.

Board papers published ahead of the meeting show the percentage of shifts at both hospitals which met ‘green acuity’ levels.

Green acuity is when the number of midwives needed at one time matches the number of women in labour and their degree of dependency.

Acuity levels are monitored regularly and can change throughout a shift.

The board papers state that in November 2023, the percentage of shifts where staffing met ‘green acuity’ at City Hospital was 63% and at Queen’s Medical Centre was 59%.

NUH says the ‘fill rates’ on its maternity shifts are more than 80% on average each month.

Becky Gray said: “We do have the challenge that there is a lot about maternity services in the press which doesn’t necessarily encourage people to look at it as a career.

“We do need to change that narrative.

“Locally we do work with our comms team to try to get positive messages out. We’ve had rolling adverts out for a number of years and we have changed our approach to now recruit in cohorts which has been really successful, so people have a peer group.

“We will continue to do that so we do support them as best we can. There’s national planning in this as well as local activity needed.

“This is not just about shortages of midwives, we have to include obstetrics in that.

“Obstetrics is equally challenged, if not more.”

Chairman Nick Carver added: “We’ve had well-publicised problems here and you can either go and hide or be resolved to drive on.

“Doing these things locally is really important.”

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