‘Half UK units closed their doors’

By Rob Dabrowski on 20 December 2017 Maternity Services Maternity Unit Closures

An estimated half of maternity units had to close their door in the last year, as they could not cope with demand.

A total of 49% of UK HoMs surveyed told the RCM that they had to close their units at least once because they could not cope with the demand and had serious concerns for safety.

One unit had to close its doors due to understaffing and fears for safety 33 times during 12 months.

In total, units closed 209 times. The average was six times and six units closed on 10 or more occasions.

The figures have been released today (20 December) as the RCM publishes its annual survey of senior midwives as part of the trade unions evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body.

The RCM also reports 76% of HoMs said they had to redeploy staff to cover essential services either very or fairly often.

While 67% of HoMs answered that on-call community staff had to be called in to cover the labour and delivery suite and 45% of HoMs said this restricted the home birth service.

In total, 19% said they had to reduce services in the last year. The most common were parenting classes and midwife-led units.

Gill Walton, RCM chief executive and general secretary, said: ‘All of this again shows how UK maternity services are overworked, understaffed, underfunded and struggling to meet the demands being placed on them. This is deeply worrying for the quality of care women are receiving, and the safety of services.

‘Midwives and maternity support workers are too often keeping services afloat by working long hours, often doing unpaid overtime and missing breaks, which is leading to stress and burn out. However, midwives will always endeavour to ensure that both mother and baby receive safe and high quality care.’

To view the RCM Pay Review Body Evidence, click here.