The Labour party has warned that England may face a maternity crisis as almost half of maternity units are having to turn away expectant mothers. It has been reported that such issues are due to staff shortages and lack of capacity.
The Royal College of Midwives have warned that there is a shortage of 3,500 NHS midwives. They also reported in 2017 that NHS maternity services were ‘reaching crisis point’ as more than a third of midwives are nearing retirement age, with 1000 midwives in England over the age of 60. There has been no evidence of David Cameron’s promise to recruit a further 3,000 midwives.
In 2017, 8 trusts’ maternity units closed for more than 24 hours and 11 units shut temporarily on more than 10 separate occasions. Labour’s research uncovered that 41 trusts temporarily closed maternity wards to new admissions at some point in 2017 on 287 occasions. The maternity unit at Bristol NHS Trust, which closed from New Year’s Eve through to 7 January, highlighted this.
Staffing shortages also caused Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s unit to be closed on 16 occasions in 2017.
However, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care has stated that they want the NHS to be one of the safest places in the world to have a baby, evidenced by a 25% increase in midwifery training places. Any closures that do occur are well rehearsed and used to safely manage a high number of admissions.
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