Half Of Maternity Units Understaffed

A New Report By A Group Of Influential MPs Has Found Chronic Understaffing At Half Of The UK's Maternity Units


More than half of maternity units in the UK are putting the lives of mothers and babies at risk because of inadequate staffing levels, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found.

A lack of senior doctors is causing poorer care at weekends and this is particularly troubling for mothers with a higher likelihood of complications or birth injuries, including those with diabetes and cancer.

The PAC found that just 47 per cent of maternity units have enough consultants on hand at any one time - compounding a pre-existing national shortage of around 2,300 midwives.

Although research has repeatedly found that most women are happy with the care they receive when giving birth to a child, there have been concerns that understaffing is putting more pressure on nurses and doctors.

A statement released by PAC read: "Although there have been substantial improvements in levels of consultant presence on labour wards in recent years, over half of obstetric units were still not meeting the levels recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in September 2012."

It was also discovered by the PAC that despite only a quarter of women wanting to give birth in hospital obstetric units, some 87 per cent ended up using this option - showing not enough choices are available to expecting mothers.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the PAC, said: "As things stand, there is evidence that many maternity services are running at a loss, or at best breaking even."

Research has consistently shown the UK has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the EU, despite the coalition's pledge that it would invest heavily in resolving the issue.

Labour welcomed the report and claimed it shows the government is not taking the needs of new mums seriously enough.

The coalition rejects this and claims its restructuring operations will result in better care for thousands of women across the country. It has also argued services under the previous government were mishandled and its financial policies made some cuts necessary.

If you or a family member suffered injuries during pregnancy or birth you might be entitled to claim. Visit our Pregnancy Claims or Birth Injury Claims pages for more information.

Expert Opinion
It is vital that the government and the NHS do everything in their power to address the shortage of midwives which is affecting so many regions of the UK.

“We have seen first-hand the devastating problems that mothers and babies can face when they do not have access to the best possible care, with birth injuries and complications in pregnancy often leading youngsters to need a lifetime of rehabilitation and care. This research from the Public Accounts Committee only serves to suggest that there is much to be done to ensure that families have the best support in what is often the most important time of their lives.

“The suggestion that the extent of the shortages is placing mothers and children at risk is a huge concern and this issue needs to be examined as a matter of clear urgency.

“Patient safety should always be a priority for both the NHS and government, and they need to show signs that action will be taken immediately on this very serious matter.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner