British maternity wards in crisis

It's not just third world countries that are struggling with a lack of maternity care as infant mortality spirals dramatically in Britain due to a shortage of midwives

The safety of maternal care in British hospitals has been criticised as overstretched and under-resourced as baby death rates in 14 NHS trusts have risen to twice the national average.

Blaming the shocking revelations on staff shortages, inadequate equipment and poor leadership, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians, Tony Falconer, says to ensure the safety of women and babies, maternity care must be concentrated in fewer, larger institutions, which can provide 24 hours consultant care.

Despite David Cameron’s pledge for an extra 3,000 midwives before the election, the government has failed to follow this through. The Royal College of Midwives insist 4,500 extra midwives are needed to deliver a safe, high-quality service.

‘The number of deliveries is going up, the complexity of the cases is going up and the outcomes are not as good as they could be,’ continues Falconer. ‘There is a major shortfall in midwives and we need 1,000 more consultant obstetricians.’

The 14 NHS trusts highlighted by the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries have not been named but the report suggests the problems with Britain’s maternity services have been growing for a decade, driven by a 19 per cent rise in birthrates to a 12 per cent increase in midwives.

In February, a study of 94 babies baby deaths in childbirth between 2008 and 209 in the West Midlands concluded 35 received sub-standard care and their deaths were preventable if there were more staff and higher standards of care.

On a more positive note, a spokesperson from the Department of Health says: ‘Since May 2010 the number of midwives has increased by 254 and last year there were a recorded 2,493 midwives in training.’

‘We will continue to work with the Royal College of Midwives to make sure we have an appropriately resourced and skilled maternity workforce based on the most up-to-date evidence.’

Should pregnant women receive a different level of expertise at 3am from 3pm? Let us know your thoughts on maternity care by posting your comment below.

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