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Chronic midwife shortages are a 'cause for concern'

Chronic midwife shortages are resulting in less postnatal care and continuity during pregnancy, a new report from the National Federation of Women's Institutes and NCT

Chronic midwife shortages are resulting in reduced postnatal care and more 'red-flag events', a new report from the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) and NCT has found.

The second survey produced by the NFWI and NCT, Support overdue: women's experiences of meternity services in 2017, explored the maternity experiences of 2500 women who gave birth in England or Wales in 2014, 2015 and the first half of 2016.

The results revealed that the provision of postnatal care was 'patchy' with no change in the percentage of women who saw a midwife post-birth. Of the women who were unable to see a midwife as often as they needed to, a third reported that this resulted in a delay in a health problem for them or their baby being diagnosed. Nearly 30% had to seek help from their GP, walk-in centre or A&E.

Marylyn Haines Evans, public affairs chair at NFWI, said: 'The findings from this report show that chronic midwife shortages (an estimated 3500 in England alone) continue to undermine the delivery of high-quality care for women and their families.'

She said that women said that midwives are doing a good job but there just aren't enough of them for the number of births that happen each year.

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the NCT added that it was 'shocking that so few women are able to see a midwife often enough postnatally' and more support is needed at this stage.

This year's survey also included questions determining the instances of 'red-flag' events experienced by women during pregnancy and child birth. NICE defines 'red-flag events' as signs that there may be a shortage of midwives. At least 50% of the respondents had experienced 'red-flag events' such as waiting more than 30 minutes for pain relief or over an hour to be given stitches.

‘The fact that half of women have experienced a red-flag event is hugely worrying. It is a sign of services under too much pressure, with too few resources and not enough staff,’ said Louise Silverton the Royal College of Midwives' director of midwifery.

‘This lack of consideration of maternity services is highlighted in the NHS sustainability and transformation plans (STPs). As RCM analysis recently found, many of the STPs make only passing mention of maternity services, if they are mentioned at all. This is not good enough,' she added.

She said that more investment should be made in maternity services to deal with the rising number of births in recent years.