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Thursday 27th October 2016

Bed shortages in maternity units

10th July 2008

A health watchdog has warned that some NHS trusts need to do more to make maternity services safer.


The Healthcare Commission also wants to see improved choices for mothers after a survey of 150 trusts focussing on services through pregnancy and postnatal care highlighted low staffing levels and poor facilities in some hospitals.

Some trusts were shown to have as few as two beds available per 1,000 births, indicating that each bed on average was used by more than one woman in 24 hours.

Staffing levels varied with a ratio as little as 23 midwives per 1,000 births in some units compared with 40 per 1,000 in others.

Most women were being offered a degree of choice, such as a midwife-led unit, or home birth, but two-thirds of trusts could currently offer only a consultant-led service in its hospitals.

A patient survey showed that 89% of women had been happy with their experience but few reported toilets were “very clean” and only 16% of units had one bathroom per delivery room.

The report follows a separate Healthcare Commission investigation into deaths at maternity hospitals, which revealed similar problems.

Healthcare Commission chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said: “There is clearly more to be done to improve the quality of clinical care as well as the experiences of women.”

The Department of Health said it had announced an additional £330 million funding in January and action to recruit an additional 4,000 midwives by 2012 but the Royal College of Midwives said maternity services still did not appear to be a priority.


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