Hospital chiefs respond to criticism of Wigan antenatal and newborn screening services

Around 3,000 women booked in for maternity care in the borough
Around 3,000 women booked in for maternity care in the borough

Wigan’s antenatal and newborn screening services need several "high priority" changes, according to Public Health England.

A report published by the government health authority this month has raised several concerns regarding Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh’s current screening programmes - which are commissioned by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

The purpose of the PHE visit, which was carried out back in November, was to ensure that all eligible pregnant women and new mums receive a "consistent high-quality service" wherever they live.

Screening programmes are signed to identify apparently healthy people who might be at increased risk of a disease or condition with the hope of getting patients early access to treatment.

Following their visit, PHE officials described the staff as "dedicated and committed to continuous improvements" but also highlighted a number of areas where changes must be made within the next three months.

The report reads: "The WWL antenatal and newborn screening operational group is not an effective group.

"Some guidelines and policies do not reflect current national guidance.

"There is no assurance that staff are up to date with mandatory training requirements.

"Access to the electronic record is limited in some areas causing an inequity for a small number of women who book out of area."

The report also flagged up the recent repatriation of "newborn hearing and child health organisation screening services" back to the WWL Trust from Bridgewater Community Health Trust.

Despite making a number of recommendations to remedy these problems, the PHE agents praised the service leaders for delivering "patient-centred" services. The quality assurance visit team found several areas where practice could be shared.

The report states: "A newborn bloodspot screening champion is available in each midwifery team."

Teams were also praised for improving attendance at audiology appointments by implementing a "ring and remind" service. The PHE team has asked for an action plan to complete the recommendations within the report.

Cathy Stanford, head of governance, maternity and child health at WWL, said: “Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust ( WWL) provides services to approximately

300,000 residents within the Wigan borough and surrounding areas.

“Approximately 3,000 women book in for care within the Trust’s maternity services, all of which will be offered antenatal and new-born screening pathways and services.

“The service is quality assured every three years in order to establish that national standards are maintained and quality improvements are being implemented.

“WWL underwent a Screening Quality Assurance visit in November 2018 and received a positive screening assurance report. The report highlighted that the service is patient-centred and delivered by a team that is dedicated and committed to continuous improvements across the screening pathway.

“In the report were six high priority findings for further actions, however, none of these were of immediate concern. Equally, several areas of good practice were highlighted within the report

which are to be shared across the regional and national networks.

“The antenatal and new-born screening teams have a robust action plan in place, with clear time scales for completion, of the areas that were flagged for further consideration which will be

monitored by the Maternity Services Governance processes.”