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More specialist nurses needed to prevent maternity unit closures

Monday 18th September 2017
Recruiting extra nurses and midwives would help to reduce the need for maternity unit closures. Image: shironosov via iStock
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    Extra nurses and midwives are needed to help staff maternity units on certain days of the week and at particularly busy times of year to make sure expectant mothers are not put at risk due to staff shortages.

    The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published a new report that shows maternity unit closures are most likely to take place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and on bank holidays. As a result, women who go into labour on these days could be at increased risk of losing their baby if they end up experiencing complications.

    The analysis found that even though maternity unit admissions tend to be spread evenly across each day of the week, with fewer pre-scheduled deliveries booked in at weekends and on public holidays, it is harder to meet the recommended safe staffing levels on some days than others.

    Consequently, units often have to be closed, which means some expectant mothers and their babies could be having their health put at risk and some may be unable to have the birth they desired, affecting their overall experience of having a child.

    Lead author of the report Elaine Kelly, senior research economist at the IFS, commented: "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."

    More specialist nurses and midwives therefore need to be recruited to help prevent these staff shortages from occurring, with trusts calling on locums where they need to in order to reduce the risks facing mothers and babies.

    Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations and communications at the Royal College of Midwives, added that it is important more funding is directed towards maternity units "so that they have the resources to meet the demands being placed on them".

    Written by James Puckle

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