National: Shortage of midwives is putting mothers and babies at risk
PUBLISHED: 11:30 26 July 2014
Legally Speaking with Ashton KCJ
With a national shortage of midwives and a year-on-year NHS funding reduction, the safety of pregnant women and their babies during childbirth may be compromised.
Margaret Hodge who chairs the Committee of Public Accounts acknowledged that a shortage of midwives is causing pressure on staff and that “nearly one third of midwives with less than 10 years’ work experience are intending to leave the profession within a year”. It is particularly disturbing to hear that rates of infection among new mothers and babies are higher at weekends.
Rosaline Wong, Clinical Negligence specialist at Ashton KCJ said: “A national shortage of midwives has far reaching consequences in maternal and baby wellbeing.
“According to the Royal College of Midwives, Britain is short of 4,500 midwives to meet current exceptionally high birth rates. As it stands, our stillbirths as well as maternal and newborn infection rates are higher compared with other European countries.
“Some births are becoming increasingly complex which puts more pressure on midwives. There are marked variations in the provision of care between hospitals with some units operating at dangerous levels at weekends and having to rely on locum midwives to cope with staffing crisis.
“All these factors will inevitably take a toll on staff morale, causing an exodus of midwives, increased intervention and erosion of continuity of care to women.”
“One cannot ignore the disparity between what women want and what they receive in terms of early access to maternity care, choice of place of birth and continuity of care received during pregnancy and childbirth.
“This is not anecdotal evidence.
“The shortage of midwives is just the tip of the iceberg. It has been reported to me that pregnant women having to travel miles to give birth because their local maternity unit is shut due to shortage of midwives. Last year 17 hospitals were named in the Sunday Telegraph as units with unsafe staffing levels.
“In the absence of published staffing levels, it is difficult to get a full picture of how severe the shortage is of staff across England and Wales but we know from handling clinical negligence claims that increasingly avoidable errors causing catastrophic consequences are made and lives are put at risk”.
Ashton KCJ Solicitors
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