Warwick Hospital's purpose-built birth centre forced to close 12 times over the last four months due to lack of staff

But bosses say the situation is improving with 17 new nurses being recruited in the same period

Warwick Hospital

Warwick Hospital’s purpose-built birth centre has been forced to close 12 times since the start of June due to the lack of staff.

But according to Fiona Burton, director of nursing with the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, the situation is improving with 17 new nurses being recruited in the same period.

The Bluebell Birth Centre - which has four purpose-built rooms with birthing pools - was opened just three years ago. When closed, mums-to-be were directed to the hospital’s original labour ward, part of which was refurbished earlier this year.

In her report to board meeting, which took place on Wednesday October 6, Ms Burton added: “The vacancy [rate] for registered midwives is currently at six per cent. The average midwifery sickness for July 2021 was 7.5 per cent and is a significant increase.

“In addition, parenting leave is currently at 8.4 per cent - this combination has resulted in the overall staff unavailability being very challenging.”

Earlier in the meeting, board members were informed of the measures being taken to counter staff shortages across a number of departments with various recruitment campaigns being run in conjunction with social media adverts.

A report considered by board members added: “There is currently a focus on nursing staff in both acute and community teams. The challenges remain similar to previous months in that we are still trying to recruit and attract staff into areas such as frailty and children’s community nursing teams.

“There are positives in that we are still having large numbers of people apply to the Trust who are seen as an employer of choice.”

Meanwhile, the cost of agency staff across the Trust has been higher than the ‘spend ceiling’ imposed for the past five months.

Figures show that the total bill in August was £711,000 which was 42 per cent higher than the in-month agency ceiling. In July, the figure was more than £800,000.

The monthly report from the Trust's director of finance Kim Li explained: “There have been significant operational pressures due partly to Covid (self-isolation and increase in Covid patients) on top of managing annual leave through the summer, maintaining elective recovery and underlying vacancy pressures. Nursing, theatres, IT and clinical coding are the main staff groups using agency.