Up and down the country thousands of new mothers are experiencing poor care because maternity units are lacking staff and it has been reported by The Royal College of Midwives that 2,500 midwives are needed across the country.
There have been a number of tragic stories where following giving birth, new mums are left on their own with their crying babies, in pain and unable to move while buzzing for someone to help them. At the height of the pandemic, a new mum was left on her own for 24 hours and a medical copywriter was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress months after giving birth at Croydon University Hospital in May 2020.
The 2020-21 data from 122 NHS trusts in England showed maternity units closed more than 232 times, the number of hours was the equivalent 679 days. This meant woman were forced to seek alternative hospitals to give birth in. In more than two-fifths of these closures, staffing shortages were given as the reason.
With growing concerns, NHS England promised to recruit an extra 1200 midwives in March 2021, as part of a £95 million investment. The latest statistics however show the numbers of full-time midwives falling rather than growing.
Medical negligence expert Simon Mansfield comments:
"The stories of the parents in this article are tragic and show just how important staffing levels are to the ability to provide safe and effective care. A shortage of 2,500 midwives is not sustainable in the long run and while I am sure that staff will always try to do their best if maternity services are understaffed the risk is that clinicians will simply not have the time to check patients properly and provide the care that they want to. Overstretched and tired staff are also more likely to make mistakes. Whilst it is welcome that there has been a commitment to recruit extra staff it is concerning that the number of midwives working in the NHS is still actually falling overall and important that further steps are taken to turn this trend around."
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