NHS staff shortage risk to mothers and babies

Having a baby is stressful enough without worries over staffing levels. Picture: Getty
Having a baby is stressful enough without worries over staffing levels. Picture: Getty
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URGENT action is needed to ensure Edinburgh’s main maternity hospital can operate safely for mothers and babies, health bosses have admitted.

The Simpson Centre at the Royal Infirmary is coming under increasing strain due to a staffing crisis, while the service is struggling to find enough room for the increasing number of cases coming through its doors.

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Pregnant mums from Edinburgh are being diverted in “increasing” numbers to St John’s Hospital in Livingston because of a lack of beds or staff, while expensive locum doctors are still being relied upon as the health board ­cannot recruit enough permanent staff. An urgent review is under way, but there were today calls for more action to ensure the 10,000 women who give birth in Lothian every year get a safe and efficient service.

NHS Lothian’s draft strategy for children and young people, which sets out priorities over the next seven years, warns an increasing number of complicated cases are coming into the region’s labour wards, ramping up pressure on beds because of longer stays.

The document states: “There is a recognition that both workforce – medical and midwifery – and capacity needs to be reviewed now with some urgency, in order to ensure we have a safe and sustainable maternity service for women and babies.”

The Royal College of Midwives backed a review, saying that while it believed maternity services in Edinburgh were safe, they were “very, very busy” and that more staff were likely to be needed soon.

Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack said the NHS Lothian document was a “clear warning” urgent action is needed.

She added: “We need to know how many newly qualified midwifery staff and what increase in resources are now needed. On top of these new resources we also need to see an improvement in the safety culture so that women and their babies get the high quality services that they need.”

Maria Wilson, NHS Lothian’s chief midwife, said a “thorough review” of services was under way. “The Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health is Scotland’s busiest maternity unit and provides a regional facility for complex births.

“We must ensure mothers and babies receive the care and support they require when they need it. We are committed to continually assuring our services met the changing demands within maternity care.”

Royal college has ‘concerns’

THE Royal College of Midwives said that the number of births in Lothian had been “way above” what was anticipated when services were planned.

The organisation’s director in Scotland, Gillian Smith, said a robust review of the current workforce was needed. “We know the outcomes for women with one-to-one care when giving birth are better, and we’re looking for a guarantee that happens,” she added.

“My worry is that when beds are full women are silently in labour and are not getting the care they need.

“We hope that workforce planning will reflect the needs of woman, and not the needs of the budget.”