Midwives in labour ward crisis

UK midwives at breaking point

New Government figures have revealed that British midwives are struggling to cope as a critical shortage of staff and an increasing number of births pushes them too breaking point.

Figures given to the Liberal Democrats show that the number of births per midwife per year has risen overall in England by 6.5 per cent since 2001, resulting in a crisis on labour wards.

In some areas, half of new mothers questioned in the largest midwifery study said they had been left alone and worried during labour, even though guidelines say women should have one-to-one care throughout their contractions and birth.

The pressure on midwives means it is even more unlikely that ministers will fulfill Government pledges for 2009.

In April last year, the Department of Health pledged that by the end of 2009 ‘all women will have a choice in where and how they have their baby’. It also promised: ‘Every woman will be supported by a midwife she knows and trusts throughout her pregnancy and afterwards.’

But Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary, said last night: ‘These figures show that our maternity services are under huge strain across the country. There simply aren’t enough midwives to deliver on the Government’s promise of one-to-one maternity care. With the birth rate rising and many midwives set to retire over the next decade, the situation is set to get worse.’

And Louise Silverton, the deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, agreed, saying they would need 5,000 more midwives by 2009 to deliver Government plans.

A Department of Health spokesman said it was up to local strategic health authorities to ensure they had an appropriate workforce in place. He also said the Government intended to increase investment in midwife training.

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