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Four in 10 units close doors

8 August, 2017

Four in 10 units close doors

Research published today (8 August) shows maternity units had to close their doors to women on 382 occasions last year.

This is an increase of 70% compared to 2014, according to the figures released by Labour.  

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), also shows nearly half (40%) of England’s maternity units closed to new mothers at some point during 2016.

Some closures lasted more than 24 hours, while over 10 trusts shut temporarily on more than 10 separate occasions each.

Hospitals report capacity and staffing issues as most common reason for closures.

Sean O’Sullivan, RCM head of health and social policy, said the news ‘comes as no surprise’ and ‘further proves just how badly England’s maternity services are struggling due to understaffing’.
‘Some of these temporary closures highlighted in Labour’s report reflect the significant pressures on maternity services across England, which remain 3500 full time midwives short of the minimum number needed,’ he said. 

‘Trusts are also facing huge pressures to save money demanded by the Government, but this cannot be at the expense of safety.
‘Midwife managers work incredibly hard to keep services safe and to provide high quality care, but they cannot do this without the correct levels of funding and resources to employ enough midwives.’

He concluded: ‘The RCM has warned time and time again that persistent understaffing does compromise safety and its about time the Government listened to those best place to advise.’

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘These findings show the devastating impact which Tory underfunding is having for mothers and children across the country.

‘The uncertainty for so many women just when they need the NHS most is unthinkable.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said there are now more than 2000 additional midwives compared with 2010 and there also 6500 midwives currently in training.

They added that temporary closures in NHS maternity units are ‘well rehearsed safety measures, which we expect trusts to use to safely manage peaks in admissions’.

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