Maternity unit's waiting list

AT a time when the NHS is rallying in the grip of a recruitment crisis, Ipswich Hospital's maternity department is a national novelty – it has a staff vacancy rate of zero, and a waiting list.

AT a time when the NHS is rallying in the grip of a recruitment crisis, Ipswich Hospital's maternity department is a national novelty – it has a staff vacancy rate of zero, and a waiting list.

Health Reporter Tracey Sparling investigates what it's secret is, but discovers the hospital is still training midwives it can't offer a job to.

NEWLY-qualified midwives will probably not find full-time jobs at Ipswich Hospital this year – despite the hospital investing time and energy into training them.

The four or five Suffolk College students who learn the ropes and become part of the team at Ipswich every year as part of their training, are being sorely disappointed when it comes to applying for jobs.

There are no posts to apply for in the maternity or gynaecology departments, or even enough work experience opportunities.

In fact, in a rare event for the NHS, there is actually a waiting list of qualified people queuing up for a midwife job at Ipswich.

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This contrasts with school-leavers who want to train as nurses across the country, but cannot find college places, as featured in the Evening Star last year.

Head of midwifery Chris Colbourne said: "Along with gynaecology, we are the only directorate in the hospital with no recruitment and retention problem.

"We have a waiting list of midwives and gynae nurses wanting to join us, partly because of the flexible working policies we offer."

She said Salford, in Manchester, was the only other place she'd heard of with a similar nil-vacancy level.

Agency staff are never needed, and two dozen members of staff are even able to work only when they want to during the year, to fit in around their home lives.

She admitted: "It is an administrative nightmare, but it is a small price to pay for keeping skilled midwives in the profession. We also have a lot of part time posts."

As well as flexible working hours, another key attraction is Ipswich Hospital's attitude to midwives returning to work after a break.

Mrs Colbourne said: "If somebody has left the profession, to have a child for example, and wants to come back, we don't hesitate to offer them what they need, to be able to work. The fact that they are there, and willing to work, is the most important thing and we can address everything else.

"Perhaps the most attractive thing is the fact we are one of the few places in the country which doesn't have a central delivery suite, so the midwives get to use all their skills because their work varies from day to day."

The department is also innovative -it launched a website for breastfeeding mums, and runs regular 'meet the midwife' events in the community.

But for the student midwives in training this year, a full-time job looks unattainable.

Mrs Colbourne said: "Sadly, we haven't got enough vacancies to employ them in February, and we can't offer them enough work experience. It is a great shame as they do become part of the team when they come here.

"We do also invest a lot of time and energy into training them, and would love to be able to offer them a job.

"We are looking to employ as many as we can part time, with a view to increasing their hours as and when the scope is available. But most vacancies arise when staff retire, and people rarely leave unless they are moving out of the area."



How many people have been delivered into the world, under the care of Ipswich Hospital midwives?


The ten-storey maternity unit at Ipswich Hospital opened in 1970.

The first baby born there was Kelvin Sherman, weighing in at 5lb 8oz.

Two thousand babies were born every year, in the unit's first decade.

Nearly 70,000 were born in the first 25 years.

Eight to ten babies are now born there every day.

That is 1.3births per delivery bed, each day.

Latest figures show 3,000 babies are now born there annually.

There are seven delivery rooms.

In April 2000, 21 babies were born in a single day.

There are three maternity wards and a Neonatal (special care) Unit.

One in ten babies need to be admitted to the Neonatal Unit.