A HOSPITAL’S maternity services staff shortages were largely because so many of the team are set to retire at the same time.

Maternity services across the country are facing “similar staffing issues” to those which led ratings at Colchester Hospital being downgraded from good to requiring improvement.

An extra 30 midwives are now being recruited, including from Italy and Portugal, to work at Ipswich, Colchester and Clacton hospitals in light of a Care Quality Commission inspection which found sustained periods of reduced staffing.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said the shortage of staff was to do with the age profile of its midwives many of whom are reaching retirement age at the same time.

She added a lot was being done to accommodate career progression for midwives to encourage more to join and stay in the profession.

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An inspection followed six whistleblowing reports between August 2020 and February 2021 in relation to midwifery staffing levels at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust’s maternity wards.

The CQC found sustained periods of reduced staffing as well as issues with the management of the maternity triage system and the process for inducing labour.

However, since then a number of improvements have started including the formation of a programme board to address continuous improvement in maternity services.

A report from the trust to the Essex health overview policy and scrutiny committee meeting tomorrow says: “The Trust was aware of the challenges within maternity services prior to the CQC inspection and was taking steps to improve the leadership and governance structures to support them.

“On August 31, a new Director of Midwifery joined ESNEFT to provide expert clinical leadership, and the trust is in the process of recruiting 30 additional midwives to support our services.”