Hospitals falling short on maternity
Midwife shortages in Norfolk mean that hospitals are still not reaching recommended standards.The rising birth rate is putting pressure on local maternity services, councillors will hear next week.
Midwife shortages in Norfolk mean that hospitals are still not reaching recommended standards.
The rising birth rate is putting pressure on local maternity services, councillors will hear next week. None of Norfolk's three hospitals meets staffing guidelines from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) or those from midwifery planning consultancy Birthrate Plus.
Birthrate Plus recommends a ration of one midwife for 28 hospital births. The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ratio is 1:32; the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn is 1:36; and the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston is 1:35. All three local hospitals have one-to-one care in established labour.
The N&N does not meet the BAPM standards because it has been struggling to recruit senior nurses, but it is actively recruiting nurses and midwives. The QEH says it is “nearly compliant” and is three members of staff short. The JPH has a shortfall of 12 nurses, and does not have a separate 24-hour on-call rota for paediatrics and neonatal care, but says it will fund the extra staff if necessary.
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The N&N had to close its maternity unit 12 times last year because it was full, meaning that 34 women had to go to other units. The QEH unit closed three times, meaning three women had to go elsewhere, though only one of them was actually in labour at the time. At the JPH, 18 women had to go elsewhere, though some of those were because their babies would have been too premature to be looked after there.
Midwife shortages will be worsened by the rising birth rate - expected to increase by 2.5pc between 2007 and 2020 - and the fact that many midwives are nearing retirement age. Nearly a quarter at the N&N and JPH are above the age of 50.
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In November, the EDP reported that midwife shortages in central Norfolk mean that only half of new mothers are able to have NHS antenatal classes. And last month, the EDP reported that the JPH and QEH are both at risk of having their maternity units downgraded from high dependency to special care, meaning that some premature babies would have to go further from home.
All three hospitals and the NHS Norfolk primary care trust will be at Norfolk's health scrutiny meeting on Thursday.
Janice Eells, chairman of the committee, said: “This is a national issue and members of our committee will want to know what action is being taken to address the situation, given that the county's birth rate is on the increase.
“Although I know staff do a sterling job for mothers-to-be, we want to question the representatives from the hospitals and NHS Norfolk about the quality of service they are able to provide through their maternity and midwifery services and learn what measures are being taken to improve the situation.”