Monday, 9 February 2009

Maternity Units ‘Shut to Mothers’

Okay, I just opened up my home page which is always set to the BBC news; I tend to watch very little news on TV these days and tend to find my information on the net. A headline caught my eye in the Health section: Maternity Units 'Shut to Mothers'. A précis of the article states that nearly half of 104 trusts responding to a recent survey by the Conservative party said that in the last year they shut their maternity units at least once and diverted women to other hospitals. The total of closures for 2008 was 553 compared to 402 in 2007. It didn't say if any women who were affected by these closures had untoward experiences or complications in their labours and births associated with these closures. I hope not but I suspect otherwise.

Now, I have been filming pregnancy and birth matters for many years and this particular scenario does seem to be happening with increasing regularity. A woman I spoke to only a couple of weeks ago said that she had been booked to have her baby at her local maternity unit in Brighton, the unit was closed to labouring women so she was asked to call the next maternity unit in Haywards Heath which was also closed, she eventually found a maternity unit to take her in Eastbourne. Fortunately she gave birth in the maternity unit and not in a car on the way there, which has happened to so many women over the last few years. This is not a local problem to Brighton, it is country wide as the Tories report shows and the main cause is increased birth rate coupled with decreased midwives and facilities. So, I then remembered an article that I had seen only a couple of days ago dated 6 th Feb: NHS facing £700 million negligence bill, The shocking fact is that more than half of the payouts are for maternity related cases Now,it doesn't take a genius to work out that maybe one is linked to the other? This figure is for 2010 alone. Surely it must be obvious that when you have shortages of midwives and maternity unit closures due to lack of funding the outcome is going to mean more mistakes being made by overstretched staff leading to more litigation?

So, more than £350 million has been set aside for next year's litigation budget for maternity services. Can you imagine what our consultant led maternity units, midwifery led units and homebirth midwives could do with that money?

If for example £100 million was put in to training and employing more midwives in the most overstretched units, how much could be saved from this horrendous litigation budget?

The Kings Fund has launched the Safer Births Initiative to improve safety in maternity services, it will be launched in October 2009 and I hope that when they have completed their research their recommendations will be implemented.


Anonymous said...

The question which really needs to be answered is 'why have the extra funds allocated to maternity care been withheld by the Trusts?' Once this is answered, and the monies distributed, staffing could then be improved.

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