ROYAL Surrey County Hospital is preparing for women who may want to have their babies there in the wake of a CQC downgrade of Ashford and St Peter’s maternity care.

Amid a suspension of gas and air for those in labour at St Peter’s, the Guildford hospital’s chief executive said she hoped the shift of women would be “over a very short time” as the other trust put different processes in place.

The Chertsey hospital’s maternity service was given an “inadequate” rating by the CQC in a report released on Wednesday (March 29) which said the safety of women and babies was put “at risk”.

A statement on the trust’s website said a temporary suspension of gas and air was in place from today (March 30) to protect staff who may have had extended exposure to Entonox, used to control pain during childbirth, “due to issues with ventilation”.

The statement said: “We have taken the difficult decision to temporarily suspend the use of Entonox (gas and air) for pregnant women and birthing people at St Peter’s Hospital and are very sorry if you are affected by this.

“Homebirths are unaffected and Entonox will continue to be available.”

The Ashford and St Peter's Hospital Trust was contacted, but it has not yet commented if the gas and air suspension is linked to the CQC report, which was based on an inspection in January.

Louise Stead, chief executive of the Royal Surrey Trust, told a board meeting today that though the Ashford and St Peter’s Trust had retained its overall “good” rating, the inspection report would have an impact on the Guildford hospital because it was the nearest to St Peter’s and people may want to move their care.

She said the added suspension of giving women in labour Entonox for pain relief, which the trust said was in place from midday this Thursday, “may cause a shift of women who are due to give birth very soon”.

The chief executive told the meeting: “Hopefully that will be over a very short period of time until they get some different processes in place.

“I think that will make a substantial different to us.”

The meeting heard that the Ashford and St Peter’s chief nurse had been in contact with Royal Surrey, as well those at other NHS trusts about supporting and working together.

Jo Mountjoy, chief nurse at Royal Surrey, said the Entonox shutdown was a planned one for 24 hours, and she was expecting an update that day on the situation.

Royal Surrey’s chief operating officer, Matt Jarratt, said a planning meeting had been set up to understand what practical impact was likely to be of the “temporary but nonetheless impactful” issue.

The St Peter’s website said there were “a range of alternative pain relief options” and advised patients to speak to their midwife or contact its Call a Midwife Surrey Advice Line on 0300 123 5473.