Midwives 'overstretched'13th June 2007
Figures released by the Conservative Party are claiming that midwives are delivering 25% more babies than experts feel are appropriate.
Opposition politicians also claim the government failed to anticipate a big rise in the birth rate in England.
They say this has left midwives under intense pressure and the government looking vulnerable in its plan to offer all women a choice of where to give birth by 2009.
Live births in England increased by 12.5% (71,000) since 2001 with a 26-year high of 635,679 recorded last year. But the number of midwives has only risen by 4.5% in that time.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley argued a shortage of midwives was jeopardising the future of some maternity-led units as midwives were being deployed to larger consultant-led units. He also said pressure placed on midwives explained why the rate of home births is relatively low.
He said: â€śLabour are trying to pursue a policy for which they do not have the staff.â€?
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) recommends each midwife should deliver 27.5 babies a year but at present in England that was 33.7. A recent RCM survey also showed that while 75% of units had seen a rise in births, 80% did not have enough staff to cope.
General Secretary Dame Karlene Davis said the problem would be compounded because almost 45% of midwives were set to retire over the next 10 years.
The Department of Health accused the Conservatives of â€śirresponsible scaremongeringâ€?, adding there were now 2,423 more midwives than a decade ago.
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