Serious concerns over maternity safety at Singleton Hospital | Fieldfisher
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Serious concerns over maternity safety at Singleton Hospital

Mark Bowman

A report by the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) has raised serious concerns over maternity safety at the Singleton Hospital in Swansea. 

This comes at a time when my team and I are quantifying the damages for a young girl born at another hospital run by the same trust, after it agreed liability on a 50/50 basis. 

In our case, our client's mother had wanted to give birth at Singleton Hospital believing it to be the safest option for her. As it was, she was persuaded against this and instead advised that a new, recently opened free standing midwifery unit at Neath Port Talbot birthing centre had better facilities. 

At no point was she advised that the birthing centre had no obstetricians, paediatricians or neonatologists to assist if needed, or how long it would take to transfer her to Singleton Hospital in case of emergency. 

Sadly, our client's birth was complicated and she suffered catastrophic brain damage as a result of the lack of support available at Neath Port Talbot. 

That concerns are now being raised about treatment at Singleton Hospital, particularly that critical and intensive care services are not available there, means women giving birth in the Swansea area must seriously consider their options and questions must be asked as to whether Swansea Bay University Health Board is providing a service that is fit for purpose.

The main areas raised by the health watchdog as having 'significant patient safety concerns' at Singleton Hospital were an emergency theatre considered unfit for purpose, delays in offering pain relief, disillusioned staff who felt undervalued by leadership and a lack of lessons learnt following serious incidents. 

Inspectors were also concerned about the risk of harm posed by having the maternity unit at Singleton, while critical care, intensive care and the emergency department are based at Morriston Hospital, roughly eight miles away.

The report follows an inspection in September which found unsafe staffing levels since 2019, a lack of staff sticking to mandatory training, and not enough being done to ensure babies were kept safe and secure.

What is clear is that staff were working hard under pressure, but fewer than half surveyed said they would be happy if their own family members received the same care.

The report said: 'Many staff members we spoke to told us they were exhausted and concerned about the impact of low numbers of midwifery staff on patient safety.'

Swansea Bay health board which runs the hospital said that improvements made since the inspection have had a positive impact on maternity care and that the HIW had described the improvement plan as 'providing sufficient assurance'.

The board said it had recruited 23 midwives and 14 maternity care assistants since the September inspection.

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