Joint maternity service benefits families across Somerset


Joint maternity service benefits families across Somerset

Somerset’s single maternity service is reaping the benefits of working as one team across our different sites.

As one of our first teams to come together under a single leadership team, our maternity team has been able to introduce joint roles and shared care pathways, creating a more equitable service across Somerset for all the families we care for.

By bringing the teams together early before the merger, we are now in a strong position to tackle the recruitment challenges, develop ways to support colleagues to progress within Somerset, and use our resources in the best possible way to provide the right care at the right time to our women and pregnant people.

Through the two trusts coming together, the service will continue to provide care across the county with benefits coming from a single vision and approach. This means you will have access to the best possible care wherever you live, with our maternity teams feeling supported to provide care they can be proud of.

As part of our improvements, we recently introduced BadgerNet, our new single maternity record that replaces all paper patient notes and previous electronic systems for maternity clinicians to use as the main pregnancy record across Somerset. This platform gives patients instant access to their notes using a smartphone, tablet or computer.  This makes our maternity team the first newly-joined service to be supported by digital innovation for the new Somerset NHS Foundation Trust - a fantastic achievement.

The maternity service has worked hard to ensure that, despite the multiple locations where team members are based, whether colleagues are in the community, at the birthing centre or one of the two acute hospitals, they feel like one team. The cohesiveness comes from the single leadership with joint roles in a number of areas across our maternity services to ensure the single approach. Examples are our new Public Health Lead Kate Beaumont, our Bereavement Lead Lucy Blackmore, and Safeguarding Lead Dawn Sherry.

Over the last few months we have invited maternity colleagues at both trusts to spend time with a member of the team at the opposite trust for ‘a day in your shoes’ experience. As we come together there will be many more opportunities to do this or for secondment opportunities that will develop the individuals within our team even further.

In December 2022, Yeovil midwife Sophie Banks worked on the Labour Ward in Taunton at Somerset FT alongside midwife Laura Grinter. Sophie said: “I have only ever worked at Yeovil as a student and since qualifying. I would definitely recommend others to experience ‘a day in your shoes’. It enables us to learn each other’s practice and affords us the opportunity to improve, learn and question practice on both sides. You also get to meet other staff members that you otherwise wouldn’t have.”

A superb example of where joint working has truly benefitted the women and pregnant people in our care is the development of the WREN team (Women Requiring Extra Nurturing) – midwives who care for the most vulnerable women and babies.

When speaking about the service, Director of midwifery Sallyann King was full of praise: “The WREN team, being one of the early teams to truly become one, has set the framework for others in the best possible way. Their success in building support networks around them with clinicians and broader support has benefited all our midwifery teams and from this I have seen colleagues grow in their understanding of more complex cases we sometimes deal with. Most importantly, they know who to ask if they come across something new to them. These strong relationships with the wider obstetrics team helps improve safety and is already benefiting both pregnant women and people as well as our midwives. Coming to work and knowing you are surrounded by support is a wonderful feeling.”

Our maternity team has demonstrated a true ‘can do’ attitude, tackling the challenges head on and developing a robust service that provides high-quality maternity care to our population. Director of Midwifery Sallyann King added: “We are exceptionally proud of what we have achieved. From an early stage we established integration champions who have been fantastic in sharing information and also gathering information and feedback that has enabled us to bring everyone into the conversation.

“We are working closely with our colleagues at the Integrated Care Board (ICB) to create one maternity policy for the whole of Somerset. This keeps things simple and equal for everyone in our care, as well as those delivering that care.

“I am continually impressed by the way our team has come together and know we have the right people in roles to ensure we bring with us the best from each trust, always learning, listening to feedback and improving, ensuring we are providing high quality care in the best place for the pregnant women and people in our communities.

“I am excited about what the future holds. Being a larger team across the county, we have more opportunities and I want to shout from the roof tops what a fantastic place Somerset is to work for anyone wanting a career in midwifery of the wider maternity roles.”

WREN team manager and midwife Paula John shares her reflections about how the teams came together:

At the start of 2022, the complex care midwifery teams at Yeovil Hospital and Somerset FT (Acorn and Juniper teams) officially merged to become the WREN team (Women Requiring Extra Nurturing). The decision to merge these teams ahead of our  wider maternity services was made as it was noted that with two teams across the county, an invisible border had been created. Some women were receiving support from a maternity team that differed from the team who would be supporting the delivery of their baby. While this only impacted on a small number of women (usually living in or around Chard, Glastonbury, Street, and Wells) these are particularly vulnerable families with unique needs and often distrusting of health professionals.

We knew that getting this right would make a huge difference to these families and could significantly change the outcome of whether a baby remains in the mother’s care or has a level of contact following the birth, as well as influencing their ongoing life choices.

As we looked at coming together, I was concerned about the feel of one team when we would be based at two sites – Yeovil and Taunton. Could we create a single team feeling in these circumstances?

The short answer is yes, we can. The WREN team is now a year down the line following our merger and, as I look back and reflect on this, I am so pleased to say how successful and positive this has been for us as a team and my fears were not necessary. It hasn’t been without its frustrations - namely IT processes - and as a team we are still having to work hard at building visibility and recognition of all of team members at each site. However, we are hopeful that both issues will only improve in time and jointly, we can improve on this through experience.

As team members we are benefitting immensely from have a larger, merged team to support each other and share experiences and knowledge. This is particularly valuable on the occasions that a mother and baby are separated following birth due to safeguarding risks. At these times, the WREN team pull together to support each other, regardless of the location.

Bringing the two smaller teams together to create a single complex care team has allowed us to continue to provide high-quality, consistent care but has eliminated the obstacles and enabled us to feel confident our service can meet the needs of our most vulnerable, hard-to-engage families.