As Members are aware, in April 2019 I published the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives joint report, following their review of maternity services at the former Cwm Taf University Health Board. One of my immediate actions in response to the findings was to place maternity services into special measures and establish the Independent Maternity Services Oversight Panel.
Since then I have provided regular updates on progress and published the reports that I have received from the Panel. I have now received the Panel’s September 2020 Progress Report which I am publishing today ahead of providing an Oral Statement on 13 October.
Despite the pandemic, the Panel has adapted its ways of working to continue to provide challenge, scrutiny and support to the health board over the past six months. Both the Panel and the health board have remained committed to driving forward the improvements within maternity and neonatal services that women, families and the wider community expect and deserve, despite the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in.
The September 2020 Progress Report, the fourth update from the Panel, acknowledges that the health board has ‘done remarkably well in difficult and challenging circumstances to maintain focus and momentum’. The Panel has confirmed there is evidence of incremental progress, with a further 12 of the Royal Colleges’ recommendations having been signed off during this period. This is commendable progress given the pressures resulting from COVID-19 and stands as testament to the hard work and determination of the staff delivering maternity and neonatal services.
I am pleased the Panel’s Clinical Review Programme has maintained momentum and the health board has managed to identify additional capacity and resource to support this work. Over the coming weeks, the Panel anticipates being in a position to begin to write to women and families within the 2016-2018 maternal category to share the findings of their individual reviews. This is an important step towards providing answers for women and families who may have had a negative experience of maternity services and I welcome this continued progress. Moreover, it will provide valuable learning for the health board and ensure that the experiences of women and families remain the driving force of the organisation’s improvement journey.
The Panel has set out its expectations for the areas needing particular attention during the next reporting period, amongst which is the need to revisit a number of areas of work that have been put on hold due to the initial COVID-19 response and the need for these to be reinstated at the earliest opportunity. This includes organisational programmes to address values and behaviours, leadership and culture as well as communication. Continued progress in these areas is crucial for the improvement realised to date to become embedded and sustained.
I would like to thank the Panel, the clinical review teams and the health board staff for continuing to achieve so much during this difficult period. I am sure this will provide a positive platform to make continued progress over what is undoubtedly going to be a very challenging winter ahead of us.