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Maternity unit closures more likely at the end of the week

11 September, 2017

Maternity unit closures more likely at the end of the week

New research published today (11 September) reveals NHS maternity units are more likely to close at the end of the week and during holiday periods due to staff availability and more complex births.

According to the findings by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), closures are more likely on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays than they are on Mondays to Wednesdays. 

This is despite admissions being evenly spread across weekdays and fewer at weekends.

The research also revealed that 50% more closures occurred in June compared to January, even though the number of births is roughly the same.

Staff availability and shortages have been cited as key problems by the study’s author, along with the fact that women giving birth today increasingly have more complex health conditions and needs.

Study author and Senior Research Economist at IFS Elaine Kelly said: ‘Such closures may be the most cost efficient way of dealing with pressures but NHS Hospital Trusts should certainly ensure that such day-of-the-week or seasonal effects are an understood and tolerable consequence of financial restraint, rather than the result of poor workforce management.’

Commenting on the research, RCM director for policy, employment relations and Communications Jon Skewes said: ‘There is a cocktail of a historically high birth rate, increasingly complex births and staff shortages that lead to units closing temporarily.

‘HoMs tell us that pressures on services are leading to closures and also to the temporary removal of services, such as home births*. The solution in essence, is fundamentally simple, and that is to fund and staff our maternity services so that they have the resources to meet the demands being placed on them.’

*Read more on the RCM’s survey of HoMs here.

Access the IFS research here.

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