In a recent announcement by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), maternity services across the UK need a radical rethink.
Under their proposal it suggests a reduction in the number of hospital units, giving more patients access to 24-hour care from senior doctors. It also recommends, for lower risk pregnancies, an increase in the number of units led by a midwife.
This latest proposal from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists comes at a time when birth rates in the UK have reached a 40-year high. According to recent statistics released by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) the total number of babies born in England and Wales during 2010 reached723,165 (1972 witnessed a birth rate of 725,440). Naturally a rising birth rate means more midwives and current figures from the RCM suggest that they need an additional 4,700 midwives to cope.
The RCM general secretary, Cathy Warwick said, “The issue should be top of the government’s agenda. Midwives are working harder and doing more with less and maternity services and the quality of care is suffering. Action is needed by this government and I appeal to David Cameron to accept what the figures are telling him and honour his promise.”
“Failing to do so is a disservice to midwives and more importantly, a disservice to the women and babies those midwives care for.”
With rising birth rates, the demand for more nurse jobs and midwifery jobs need to be addressed by the government with more money being spent on training and recruitment for nurse jobs with the NHS.
Although the National Childbirth Trust welcomed the report they don’t believe it goes far enough and NHS Managers agree, they stated that “Maternity care desperately needs to be reorganised.”
In the past, attempts to re-organise maternity care has proved controversial, but Dr Anthony Falconer, president of the RCOG, said, “If women could be convinced of the greater safety they would be prepared to travel to have their babies.”
Currently the RCOG have reported that in their opinion too many babies are born in traditional hospital units, which in the current financial climate is neither acceptable nor sustainable. Dr Falconer also added that most “out of hours care” is being provided by junior doctors, with the RCOG currently estimating that the number of consultants would need to increase by 1000, to be able to provide “round-the-clock” cover for hospital units.
Dr Falconer also said “There is no doubt if you look at the worst scenario of serious complications, you need the right person, a senior person, there immediately.”
The report estimates that currently across the UK, 56 units see fewer than 2,500 deliveries a year and therefore the proposed changes are likely to affect large cities and towns but rural areas that need to maintain smaller units are likely to remain unaffected. The proposal also recommends an increase in units led by midwives taking pressure off hospital units.
The report was welcomed by Midwives who stated “It could improve the experience for about a third of women who have straightforward deliveries.”, the National Childbirth Trust also commented, saying “The idea of having a network to provide joined-up care for women was one it could support but it would prefer care during pregnancy and maternity to be concentrated in one NHS organisation in each area.”
Mike Farrar, Chief executive of the NHS Confederation said, “Politicians needed to be prepared to speak up for change. Where the case for change is clear, politicians should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with managers and clinicians to provide confidence to their constituents that quality and care will improve as a consequence of this change”. “That has not always been the case, with two ministers in the last Labour government campaigning against the closure of units in Greater Manchester.”
With more babies being born than in previous years the demand for midwife jobs is set to increase with more positions likely to become available in NHS Hospitals and with the possible introduction of more smaller specialist maternity units as recommended by RCOG.
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