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Maternity staff reassure mums-to-be

PUBLISHED: 01:01 11 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:10 03 March 2010

IPSWICH Hospital tops the list of the busiest maternity units in Britain - but staff have been quick to issue a reassurance that new mums are never hurried out of beds.

IPSWICH Hospital tops the list of the busiest maternity units in Britain – but staff have been quick to issue a reassurance that new mums are never hurried out of beds.

The Dr Foster Good Birth Guide shows that at Ipswich Hospital, there are 1.3 births every day, for each delivery bed in the unit – as there are at Solihull Hospital in the West Midlands, and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in the South West.

That compares with a national average of 0.76 births per day for each bed, and the book's editor warned such pressure could bring problems.

Editor Roger Taylor said: "There will be some pressured units which are operating with substantial overcrowding.

"When you have a high number of births in relation to the number of beds available, it can lead to problems. The nightmare scenario is that a heavily pregnant woman is going into labour and staff are still hunting for a bed for her. There is also the potential for some hospitals to be moving new mothers onto post natal wards, quicker than they might have done otherwise."

He said: "I'm not saying that is happening at Ipswich, but that's potentially what can happen if hospitals are under that sort of pressure. It's a question of how hospitals deal with the pressure."

He added that the book encourages people to consider home births, or use community hospitals.

But Chris Colbourne, head of midwifery at Ipswich Hospital, said: "The statistics should not be taken at face value –just because we have more births per bed than other hospitals, doesn't mean we are under pressure. The reality is far more complex than that."

Mrs Colbourne, said: "We have seven delivery beds, and 3,300 babies are born here every year – eight to ten every day.

"But we don't have pressure on space because of the way we are organised. We are the only unit in the country which doesn't have a central delivery suite, so in effect, we have three wards to accommodate the women and their babies. Never have we been unable to find somewhere for anybody.

"In April 2000, we had 21 babies born in one day and we could cope with that. I am very proud of the service every member of staff achieves here."

She added: "Women can stay as long or as short a period of time, as they like – we have a very flexible approach, and they can stay longer if they need extra help on feeding or that sort of thing."

The data for the book, was collected from hospitals by Dr Foster, an independent publisher of health information, after consultation with the National Childbirth Trust, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Department of Health.

The results were analysed by the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine.

The book also reveals that Caesarean rates in some large hospitals are twice the level in other units, even after adjusting for differences in the types of people served by the unit.

The guide also shows how maternity units in the South East have very low staffing levels, although this is not a problem at Ipswich where there is a waiting list of people wanting to work at the maternity unit.

Parents wanting a home birth can also see which units are most successful at delivering babies at home – Ipswich also had the most home births in the country - and other topics include pain relief and ante-natal screening.

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The Dr Foster Good Birth Guide is published by Vermillion and costs £16.99.

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