Baby boom means baby gloom

A MASSIVE baby boom means Ipswich Hospital does not have enough midwives to cope with the growing birth rate it can be revealed today.The hospital is failing to meet the standard for providing the best care for mums and babies and is desperate for more cash so it can employ extra midwives.

A MASSIVE baby boom means Ipswich Hospital does not have enough midwives to cope with the growing birth rate it can be revealed today.

The hospital is failing to meet the standard for providing the best care for mums and babies and is desperate for more cash so it can employ extra midwives.

September proved to be the busiest month ever for the over-stretched unit with 364 births recorded.

The news comes after The Evening Star revealed last week that the hospital did not have enough neonatal nurses in its special care baby unit.

In the East of England hospitals are supposed to provide one midwife for every 30 births a year.

But at Ipswich the ratio is 1:38, and the problem is growing.

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Jan Rowsell, hospital spokeswoman, said the trust had written to its commissioner, NHS Suffolk, to ask for money to fund additional midwifery posts in addition to its current level of around 100 full time equivalent posts.

She said: “At the moment we are at 1:38 but we should be 1:30.

“The reason we are not meeting our targets is because like most midwifery units we have seen a significant rise in the birth rate which has meant we are busier than ever.

“We have already recruited an extra one whole time and one part time midwife and we are currently negotiating business cases with our commissioner to employ another four-and-a-half midwives which would bring the total to six new midwives.

“We would then look for an additional three midwives and five assistants.

“Then we would be a long, long way towards the standards as long as birth rates do not go through the roof.”

She added that it was expected that more than 4,000 babies would be born in 2008/09, up from 3,857 in 07/08, 3,764 in 06/07, 3,664 in 05/06, 3,620 in 04/05 and 3,591 in 03/04.

The reasons for the increase include immigration, an increase in multiple births and a growing number of young families moving to Suffolk.

A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said: "We are committed to providing one-to-one care in labour.

“We have received Ipswich Hospital's business cases and are assessing them to inform our commissioning intentions for the next year."

Earlier this year a report from the Healthcare Commission praised the care offered at Ipswich Hospital's maternity unit, but told the Heath Road hospital it needed to improve staffing levels.

Does more need to be done to provide excellent midwifery care at Ipswich Hospital? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

The midwives' view

MIDWIVES are overworked and overstretched according to the Royal College of Midwives.

The organisation thinks there is a severe shortage of midwives working in the profession and that women can face a postcode lottery of care.

Its figures show there has been a 15per cent increase in the number of babies born in the last six years in the East.

However between 2005/06 and 2006/07 there was a fall of £13million in the amount of money spent on maternity services in the region, and the college believes an extra 600 midwives are needed to plug the shortfall.

Pat Gould, the Royal College of Midwives' team manager for the East, said: “How can we expect midwives to cope when we are in the midst of a baby boom and their workload is racing ahead of staff numbers?

“Midwives are struggling to provide the one-to-one care promised by the government, and the birthrate is set to carry on rising. Across the country we are really beginning to see the quality of maternity care being compromised by poor staffing levels.

“Morale among midwives is low. We want to see midwives valued and cherished and rewarded in their pay-packet for their skill and dedication.”

She said that Ipswich Hospital's poor performance in the ratio of births to midwives was worse than average.

She added: “When the figures are like that you have to ask if the midwife is able to give one-to-one care or is looking after two to three women at once.”

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