Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
Today, I am publishing the findings of the independent review of neonatal services at Prince Charles Hospital, in Merthyr Tydfil.
I would like to thank the Independent Maternity Services Oversight Panel and its neonatal deep dive team for the significant amount of work undertaken over the last eight months to provide such a comprehensive picture of services and improvements needed. I also want to thank all the families who gave their time to share their experiences and contributed to this important review.
The review has involved a family listening exercise; conversations with staff and stakeholders; a documentary evidence review and a review of the clinical care provided to a number of babies admitted to the Prince Charles Hospital neonatal unit during 2020.
Members will be aware the panel raised concerns about the unit in September 2021. It advised Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board of its interim findings so immediate and short-term action could be taken while the review continued.
Improvement action taken to date includes the recruitment of two additional consultants and revised arrangements to ensure the timely transfer of pregnant people who need to be referred to specialist services. Closer working relationships have also been built with tertiary centres to regularly support clinical decision making where necessary.
The review has now concluded – it has explored all elements of the neonatal service in depth and provides a rich source of learning for the health board and other NHS organisations in Wales.
The panel has identified some strengths for the service and the health board to build on, not least the dedicated and caring staff at all levels who are committed to the neonatal service and its ongoing development.
The panel has also outlined wide ranging recommendations relating to:
- Family engagement and support
- Data collection, analysis, audit and reporting
- Governance and assurance mechanisms
- Clinical practice and learning from incidents
- Culture and team relationships
- Reflective practice
These recommendations have been accepted and welcomed by the health board to support the considerable improvement activity which is already underway and to help it achievable sustainable change.
The report makes it clear the neonatal service at Prince Charles Hospital cannot be considered in isolation. As well as being inextricably linked to maternity services and the wider health board, it must function effectively within the wider maternal and neonatal networks as well as working with neighbouring health boards.
The report also makes some all-Wales recommendations. The Maternity and Neonatal Safety Support programme, which I launched on 24 January, will take these important recommendations forward. It will ensure clear and consistent approaches to maternity and neonatal safety in all services in Wales and will build on previous work undertaken, such as the peer reviews completed by the All-Wales Maternity and Neonatal Network and the independent reviews of neonatal transport services commissioned by the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee.
We will continue to work with the NHS to improve services to ensure all pregnant people, their babies and families experience high-quality maternity and neonatal care across Wales.