NHS chiefs urged ‘ensure you protect pregnant women’ during crisis

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has this morning launched an urgent plea for NHS leaders to acknowledge there’s a 20 per cent shortage of crucial staff.

It wants to ringfence maternity services, amid fears that midwives and maternity support workers could be redeployed to other areas.

The RCM says a survey of senior staff shows that the shortage of midwives on NHS maternity units has doubled since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak.

RCM chief executive Gill Walton said: “Women are still pregnant, still having babies, and they need the care and support of properly resourced maternity services.

“We have to ensure that midwives and maternity support workers are ringfenced from any redeployment to ensure that women continue to receive safe care.

“What this survey shows is that Coronavirus is exposing the gaps that already exist in maternity services.

“The shortage of midwives has doubled since the start of the outbreak, a situation which is only likely to worsen as the pandemic spreads further.”

The survey found that in 11 cases the midwife-led hospital unit has been closed to provide facilities to assess or care for Coronavirus patients.

Nearly eight out of 10 midwifery leaders (78 per cent) reported ending routine face-to-face antenatal and postnatal visits, with a further nine per cent restricting just face-to-face post natal visits.

Heads and directors of midwifery reported confusion about what should happen to midwives with long-term health conditions or who live with someone with conditions that put them at greater risk, and the impact their self-isolation would have on staff shortages.

Gill Walton said: “We have to protect the maternity front door and continue to provide the levels of care and support pregnant women need.

“We need to do all we can to make sure the maternity workforce is kept well and healthy as much as possible. The testing of NHS staff is an urgent priority.”