Half of maternity wards forced to turn away new mothers in 2016 because of ”shameful” lack of beds
PREGNANT women were turned away from almost half of maternity units last year due to a “shameful” lack of staff and beds.
In shocking stats published today, Labour has laid bare a midwife crisis gripping the country.
The party’s findings show that 42 out of 96 trusts in England temporarily closed their doors to expectant mums at least once last year.
New admissions were denied 382 times in 2016, a 70 per cent increase from 2014 when there were 225 occasions due to capacity shortages and understaffing.
Some closures lasted more than 24 hours while over 10 trusts shut temporarily on more than 10 separate occasions each, Labour said.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “These findings show the devastating impact which Tory underfunding is having for mothers and children across the country.
“It is staggering that almost half of maternity units in England had to close to new mothers at some point in 2016. “The uncertainty for so many women just when they need the NHS most is unthinkable. Under this government, maternity units are understaffed and under pressure.
“It’s shameful that pregnant women are being turned away due to staff shortages, and shortages of beds and cots in maternity units.”
Among the trusts that had to shut their doors last year was the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, which due to “insufficient midwifery staffing” was forced to close its midwifery unit 30 times.
St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust closed its unit for more than 30 hours in February 2016 due to lack of beds and high activity. East Cheshire NHS Trust had to close its unit for eight hours due to “full cot occupancy” in the neonatal unit.
And Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust was closed on five occasions. On one occasion the unit was closed for 14.5 hours to “maintain safety and staffing levels.”
Royal College of Midwives (RCM) head of health and social policy Sean O’Sullivan said the findings prove “just how badly England’s maternity services are struggling due to understaffing.”
He said: “Trusts are also facing huge pressures to save money demanded by the government, but this cannot be at the expense of safety.
“If units are regularly and persistently having to close their doors it suggests there is an underlying problem around capacity and staffing levels that needs immediate attention.”
Mr O’Sullivan said the figures were especially worrying for women going into labour with the prospect of travelling to another unit likely to cause unnecessary distress.
“The RCM has warned time and time again that persistent understaffing does compromise safety and it’s about time the government listened to those best placed to advise.”
He added that maternity services across England are 3,500 full-time midwives short of the minimum number needed.
The midwife shortage is a scandal that can be traced back to another broken Tory pre-election promise.
Former prime minister David Cameron pledged to recruit 3,000 more midwives before the 2010 general election — but he never did.
Last year the current Tory government announced that it was going to scrap bursaries for student midwives and nurses. From August this year they having to resort to the same student loans system as other students.
Since then, applications for nursing and midwife courses have slumped by 23 per cent, indicating that shortages will become even worse.
The Department for Health had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.