Research published by the Labour party shows that almost half of England’s maternity units closed to new mothers at least once during 2016.
The data which was obtained by Labour under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) shows that:
• 42 hospital Trusts which responded to an FOI request say they temporarily closed maternity wards to new admissions at some point in 2016.
• Some closures lasted more than 24 hours, while over 10 Trusts shut temporarily on more than 10 separate occasions each.
• In 2016 there were 382 occasions when units had to close their doors, a 70% increase from 2014.
• Hospitals report capacity and staffing issues as most common reason for closures.
Responding to the research, Sean O’Sullivan head of health and social policy at The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “This latest research from the Labour Party comes as no surprise to the RCM and really further proves just how badly England’s maternity services are struggling due to understaffing.
“Some of these temporary closures highlighted in Labour’s report reflect the significant pressures on maternity services across England, which remain 3,500 full time midwives short of the minimum number needed. Trusts are also facing huge pressures to save money demanded by the Government, but this cannot be at the expense of safety.
“Midwife managers work incredibly hard to keep services safe and to provide high quality care, but they cannot do this without the correct levels of funding and resources to employ enough midwives.
“The RCM respects and supports decisions made to close maternity units when failing to do this will compromise the safety of the service and the women and babies already being cared for. Nevertheless, if units are regularly and persistently having to close their doors it suggests there is an underlying problem around capacity and staffing levels that needs immediate attention.
“The RCM has warned time and time again that persistent understaffing does compromise safety and its about time the Government listened to those best placed to advise.”