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20.10.16

Over a third of maternity units closed temporarily during the last year

Over a third of maternity units had to close their doors to patients temporarily in the past year because they couldn’t cope with demand, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has said.

The RCM published a survey of heads of midwifery at its annual conference, which found that 38.6% said their unit had experienced a temporary closure.

In total, there were 281 separate closures, with an average of 8.3 closures per unit. However, eight units closed 10 or more times and one unit had 50 closures.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said: “Yet again we are seeing senior midwives describing services that are being battered by increasing demands, inadequate resources and staffing shortages.”

The results showed that 93.2% of respondents said their unit was dealing with more complex births than last year.

Furthermore, nearly a fifth said their budget had decreased in the last year, compared to 14.6% in the same survey in 2015, and almost two-fifths said they did not have enough midwives to cope with the demands on the service, compared to 29.6% the previous year.

A separate RCM survey, of midwives who have left the profession or are planning to do so in the next two years, found that the most common reason they gave for leaving was low staffing levels at work.

Warwick said: “The government say they are investing in services and that they are being given the resources they need.

“Well, I challenge this government to come down to the frontline and live the lives of midwives, MSWs, doctors and other maternity staff struggling day in and day out to do their best for mothers and babies.

“These dedicated staff will tell you a very different story from the one that government wants us to hear.”

NHE contacted the Department of Health and NHS England for a comment but they did not respond at the time of publication.

(Image c. David Jones from the Press Association)

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