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Inspection carried out on 30 April 2014

During a routine inspection

Blackburn Birthing Centre is one of seven hospitals and care centres that form East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. This location provides maternity services only. It is a free-standing birth centre where women for whom problems are not anticipated can give birth to their babies in a relaxed ‘home-from-home’ atmosphere. Although registered with CQC with the name Blackburn Birthing Centre it is known locally as Blackburn Birth Centre, so will be referred to in this way in the rest of the report.

The unit comprises four delivery rooms and a four-bed post-natal bay to allow mothers and babies to remain for a period after delivery. There are approximately 950 babies born here each year.

We carried out a comprehensive inspection because East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust had been flagged as high risk on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) ‘intelligent monitoring’ system (which looks at a wide range of data, including patient and staff surveys, hospital performance information, and the views of the public and local partner organisations). The inspection took place on 30 April 2014.

Overall, this birth centre was providing a good service. We rated it as ‘good’ for providing effective care, caring for patients, being responsive to patients’ needs and being well-led. However, we found that improvements were required in providing safe care.

Our key findings were as follows:

  • Care was delivered with kindness and compassion. Women were treated with dignity and respect.
  • Incidents were reported and there was evidence of learning as a result of these.
  • Ward, birthing and communal areas were clean and infection control practices were in place.
  • Birthing mats were worn with ragged edges in places and were stained.
  • Midwifery staffing levels within the birth centre were sufficient to provide a safe service.
  • Women were provided with food and drink, although the provision was limited.
  • Transfers of women from the birth centre to hospital were low.

We saw several areas of outstanding practice, including:

  • East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust’s maternity services, of which the Blackburn Birth Centre forms part, were awarded the Royal College of Midwives’ Mothercare Maternity Service of the Year Award (along with Downpatrick Community Maternity Services, Northern Ireland and NHS Forth Valley, Scotland) for their ‘innovative work to improve maternity services, promote normal births and facilitate staff engagement activities’. They received the award for improving normal birth rates, reducing caesarean section rates and increasing birth choice for women.

However, there were also areas of poor practice where the trust needs to make improvements:

Importantly, the trust must:

  • Birthing mats must be cleaned and regularly checked for any damage, replacing them as necessary.

In addition the trust should:

  • Personal development reviews should be recorded correctly so an accurate figure for those completed is available.
  • There should be support available and used for women and partners whose first language is not English.  

Professor Sir Mike Richards

Chief Inspector of Hospitals