Midwives' workload surges13th January 2009
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has warned that escalating birth rates and fewer staff mean midwives are having to attend at more births than safety guidelines advise.
The RCM has estimated that around 5,000 more midwives are required in England to provide care at a "basic standard".
RCM guidelines say that a midwife should help in the delivery of 27.5 babies (on average) annually to make certain safe standards are maintained.
Statistics published by the Liberal Democrats have revealed that midwives actually delivered 34 babies (on average) in 2007.
The statistics are the highest since records began in 1997 and nearly one quarter higher than the recommended guidelines.
The number of babies born is now 10% more than the number recorded in 2001.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said that "millions are being paid out in compensation for medical blunders."
"To find now that midwives are at their most over-stretched since records began, adds to the shameful failure of the government."
He added that the government should concentrate on recruiting more midwives.
According to the National Patient Safety Agency, the amount of errors reported on maternity wards has "doubled" from 35,428 cases in 2005 to 70,108 in 2007.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "The UK is one of the safest countries in the world to have a baby. There is no evidence to suggest a lower ratio of births to midwives is needed."
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