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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Midlands: Midwifery crisis?
Liz Goddard
Politics Show Midlands

Shortage of Midwives is leading to ward closure and claims of increased obstetric risk in Midlands' hospitals. Politics Show Midlands reports.

Nurse on ward
Many midwives are leaving the NHS

Home births have been suspended in Peterborough as a result of problems in recruiting midwives into the NHS.

Oswestry in Shropshire had no maternity unit for six months, because so many of the staff were on maternity leave and replacements could not be found.

Parentcraft classes, for mums-to-be, were also suspended in Shrewsbury for six months during 2003.

Both the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Department of Health agree on one thing, the need for 10,000 additional midwives throughout the UK over the next five years.

Recruitment not matching demand

But the RCM has told Politics Show that the pace of recruitment is too slow.

The college alerted Politics Show about a recent survey which indicates that two out of five recruits quit their midwifery course before they finish.

NHS figures published in March 2004, show the number of midwives increased by more than 1500 between 1997 and 2003.

But this only amounts to 391 additional full time staff posts.

The RCM says it's latest research shows 83% of maternity units in England had vacancies in July 2003 and more than half of those jobs had remained empty for at least three months.

The Royal College say women giving birth are safe, but a lack of midwives means our maternity services are not as safe as they would like.

Choice is also compromised.

Impact on services

A House of Commons select committee report into midwives identified the way a shortage can impact on services which included:

  • midwives caring for more than one woman during labour
  • increased intervention e.g. caesarean sections
  • staffing problems because shortages mean extra work
  • additional stress for those working on understaffed wards

Politics Show Midlands meets two midwives:

  • Shabira Kassam works at Leicester General hospital.
  • Dulcie Jaspar works on the St Matthew's Estate in Leicester

Dulcie Jaspar offers support to her mums for up to 6 weeks after they have given birth. Usually the midwife can only support mothers for ten days.

Dulcie says she can offer this "Rolls Royce" service because "Sure Start" funding, targeting areas of social deprivation, is available from the government.

We visit Leicester General Hospital to talk to hospital bosses about the recruitment problems they are facing.

Politics Show

So what are your views on this issue? Let Politics Show Midlands know what you think. Politics Show, Sunday 26 September, at 13.30pm.

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