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Midwives are having to care for 16 women at a time

 
  • Midwives having to care for up to 16 women at a time in busy maternity units
  • he worrying findings will raise fears that units are unable to cope with demand 
  • Audit of 134 departments also found that nine in ten were struggling to recruit

Sophie Borland Health Editor For The Daily Mail

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Midwives are having to care for up to 16 women at a time in overstretched maternity units, an audit has found.

And 90 per cent of units have no consultants present at the weekend, with 84 per cent having none on site overnight.

The worrying findings will raise fears that units are unable to cope, so putting mothers and babies at risk.

Midwives are having to care for up to 16 women at a time in overstretched maternity units, an audit has found

Midwives are having to care for up to 16 women at a time in overstretched maternity units, an audit has found

Midwives are having to care for up to 16 women at a time in overstretched maternity units, an audit has found

The audit of 134 maternity departments also found that nine in ten were struggling to recruit middle-ranking doctors.

A further 16 per cent admitted they were unable to provide women with one-to-one midwife care during birth.

The research is part of a major ongoing project that will provide the largest audit so far into the state of NHS maternity care.

Hospitals are coming under growing pressure from the rising birth rate, which has partly been driven by the migration of young couples. 

They are also having to deal with increasingly complex labours occurring in women who are older or very overweight.

The National Maternity and Perinatal Audit is a joint project between the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

Its initial investigations, carried out between January and March, found that the average unit had one midwife looking after seven patients at a time.

This included women in labour, as well as those who had very recently given birth.

But at some hospitals, which have not been named, there is just one midwife for 16 women. Meanwhile at better-staffed units, midwives have just two patients to look after.

Just 15 per cent of units said women were able to see the same midwife throughout their pregnancy and after the birth.

Fifty per cent of maternity units said they would undergo changes within the next three years – including being merged with other units or closed completely.

And 90 per cent of units have no consultants present at the weekend, with 84 per cent having none on site overnight

And 90 per cent of units have no consultants present at the weekend, with 84 per cent having none on site overnight

And 90 per cent of units have no consultants present at the weekend, with 84 per cent having none on site overnight

It comes after figures obtained by the Labour Party earlier this week showed almost half of maternity units in England had closed their doors to women in labour in the past year because they had no spare beds.

They had imposed temporary diverts which mean women are sent to other hospitals up to 50 miles away, which can be extremely stressful.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Lesley Regan, president of RCOG, said: ‘The difficulties in securing staffing in obstetric units is particularly worrying. Moving forward, it is anticipated that rota gaps will persist and worsen in most units.

‘The pressures on maternity services are growing which could compromise the experience for women and their families. Stretched and understaffed services also affect the quality of care provided to both mothers and babies. These staffing and capacity issues must be addressed as a matter of urgency.’

Labour’s health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘This is more evidence that across the country maternity units are underfunded and understaffed, with midwives working hard to keep services running.

‘The findings of this report will be alarming reading for those of us committed to patient safety. The truth is Theresa May’s Government has pushed NHS services to the brink with years of underfunding. Short staffing in maternity wards is a real danger for families and their babies.

‘The Tories need to … take urgent action to make sure hospitals have enough midwives in place to run services safely.’

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy advisor at the National Childbirth Trust, said: ‘This audit is an important piece of work that shines a light on the state of maternity services in England, Scotland and Wales today.

‘It reveals a number of problems including staffing shortages that put safe care at risk, and postnatal care that often leaves mothers struggling alone because they cannot contact a midwife.’

A spokesman for NHS England said: ‘This report shows the NHS is stepping up its game delivering more personalised choice and joined-up care with better team-working as well as … looking at a number of ways to improve continuity of care.

‘The report will act as an important benchmark for local areas helping identify where improvements can be made including ensuring the right staffing levels for the women and babies they care for.’ 

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