THE GREAT Western Hospital has been criticised for the staffing on its maternity unit, a report published yesterday revealed.

During the unannounced routine inspection carried out by the Care Quality Commission last month, the GWH was judged to be meeting all other required standards, but was told action is needed to improve staffing.

Inspectors said there were not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff on the unit to safely meet people’s needs at all times. They judged that this has a minor impact on people who use the service, and the GWH has been told to take action. The report said: “We were told by a number of patients and their partners they felt staff levels may not be ideal, but the attitude of staff meant their needs were mostly met. “Patients said they had not been kept waiting for longer than they felt was safe when they needed attention. “Consultants who worked in obstetrics told us they felt staff assisting with delivery in theatre could sometimes be stretched.”

In 2011/12, the GWH delivered 3,700 babies in the acute service and 877 at the White Horse Birthing Centre. This was an increase of just under 550 births since 2008/09 and partly reflected the full opening of the birth centre. The ratio of midwives to births on average from April to November 2012 was one midwife to 44 births - above the recommended ratio for national planning for safe hospital births of one midwife to 28 births. Chief nurse Hilary Walker said the GWH is developing an action plan in response to the CQC report.

She said: “Providing a safe and high quality birthing experience is our absolute priority, and we were pleased to learn that women using our services praised our kind, caring and professional maternity staff.

“The vast majority of women told inspectors that they were happy with the care and support they received and were treated with privacy, dignity and respect. “Improving staffing has been identified as a priority at the GWH, as it is for many other maternity services across the country. We have already started planning to increase the number of qualified, skilled and experienced midwives supporting these services.

“We are pleased that, although there are further improvements to be made, feedback from women remains positive across all off our maternity services, with particular praise given to the attitude of our staff.”

The GWH was judged to be meeting all other standards which covered respecting and involving people who use the services, care and welfare of people who use the service and assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision.