NHS inquiry reveals midwives care for up to 16 women at a time

pregnant woman working at desk
An NHS inquiry into it’s maternity services has revealed mothers’ and babies’ lives could be at risk due to severe shortages.

88 per cent of units are struggling to recruit middle-ranking doctors to ensure proper staffing, whilst 90 per cent of units have no consultants over the weekend.

Researchers on behalf of the NHS also found that less than one in six of the 750,000 women who give birth a year see the same midwife throughout their pregnancy and aftercare.

According to the first national maternity and perinatal audit (NMPA), women are entitled to one-to-one care during labour, but are not receiving it.

The research will provide the largest audit so far into the state of NHS maternity care. It is a collaboration between the National Maternity and Perinatal Audit and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The investigation, carried out between January and March, initially discovered that the average unit had one midwife looking after seven patients at any one time.

However, further into the research, some hospitals had just one midwife for 16 women.

Only 15 per cent of all units said women were able to see the same midwife throughout their pregnancy and post-birth.

Fifty per cent of the maternity units said they would either merge with another unit or close completely within the next three years.

Hospitals are facing growing concern as the birth rate rises, and are dealing with complex labors occurring in women who are overweight or older.

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the parenting charity NCT, expressed concern that the inquiry shows women are often ‘struggling alone because they cannot contact a midwife’.  “

“The lack of obstetricians is extremely alarming as a complication can arise very quickly in labour.”

The research also found other problems, including that 37 per cent of women in labour do not have a private bathroom and just 10% of mothers have access their own care records.

“It’s worrying that so few women are seeing the same midwife or group of midwives.”

“IContinuity of care is crucial to ensuring safe, high-quality care,” said Mandy Forester, head of quality and standards at the Royal College of Midwives.

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