Ma­ter­nity units forced to close once a week

Glossop Advertiser - - News - Sam Yar­wood

MA­TER­NITY units in Greater Manch­ester were forced to close on av­er­age once a week last year be­cause they didn’t have the staff or space to be run safely.

Wor­ry­ing fig­ures also re­vealed that on one oc­ca­sion St Mary’s Hos­pi­tal in Manch­ester had to di­vert mums-to-be else­where for al­most 24 be­cause it was full.

Ac­cord­ing to Labour, this is just a snap­shot of the loom­ing cri­sis faced by the coun­try’s ma­ter­nity ser­vices. Fig­ures ob­tained hours by the party show that dur­ing 2017, preg­nant women had to be turned away from the re­gion’s closed ma­ter­nity units on at least 64 oc­ca­sions – that is once ev­ery six days on av­er­age. The ma­jor­ity of these oc­curred at the Royal Old­ham (15), Step­ping Hill (16) and Wythen­shawe (14), which recorded more than a dozen di­vert oc­ca­sions each.

There were six or less clo­sures re­ported each by Bolton (3), Tameside (4), Wi­gan In­fir­mary (6), North Manch­ester Gen­eral (2) and St Mary’s Hos­pi­tal (4).

No data was avail­able for Sal­ford Royal, which axed its ma­ter­nity ser­vices in Septem­ber last year.

Hos­pi­tal chiefs blamed hav­ing to shut on a lack of staff and beds to care for pa­tients.

This was sup­ported by the Royal Col­lege of Mid­wives (RCM), which es­ti­mates there is cur­rently a short­age of around 3,500 mid­wives na­tion­ally.

The RCM added that it fully backed the de­ci­sion by hos­pi­tals to close ma­ter­nity units, say­ing that the safety of moth­ers and ba­bies was a pri­or­ity.

Labour sent Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests to each of the coun­try’s 135 hos­pi­tal trusts, and re­ceived 89 re­sponses.

Of those, nearly half (41) con­firmed it had closed ma­ter­nity units to new moth­ers at some point dur­ing 2017.

Eight trusts had clo­sures last­ing more than 24 hours, while 11 trusts (in­clud­ing three in Greater Manch­ester) shut tem­po­rar­ily on more than 10 sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions each. Gill Wal­ton, gen­eral sec­re­tary and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Royal Col­lege of Mid­wives (RCM), said it was im­por­tant that ex­pec­tant moth­ers were not dis­tressed by the find- ●● ings. Safety in our ma­ter­nity ser­vices is para­mount and that is why the RCM re­spects and sup­ports de­ci­sions made by mid­wife man­agers to close ma­ter­nity units when lev­els of staffing are not safe,” she said.

“We re­main 3,500 mid­wives short in Eng­land and if some ma­ter­nity units reg­u­larly have to close their doors it sug­gests there is an un­der­ly­ing prob­lem around ca­pac­ity staffing lev­els.”

Jonathan Ash­worth, Labour’s shadow health sec­re­tary, said: “Ex­pec­tant moth­ers de­serve re­as­sur­ance that the lo­cal ma­ter­nity unit will be there for them when needed. It is a dis­grace that al­most half of ma­ter­nity units in Eng­land had to close to new moth­ers at some point in 2017. The un­cer­tainty for so many women just when they need the NHS most is un­think­able.”

A spokesman for Stock­port NHS Foun­da­tion Trust said: “Un­for­tu­nately last year we had to di­vert women re­quir­ing care to nearby hos­pi­tals with ma­ter­nity fa­cil­i­ties. Diver- sions are un­der­taken only in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances to pro­tect the safety and well­be­ing of our moth­ers and ba­bies.”

Si­mon Me­hi­gan, di­vi­sional direc­tor Mid­wifery and Gy­nae­col­ogy at the North­ern Care Al­liance NHS Group for The Royal Old­ham and North Manch­ester Gen­eral Hos­pi­tals, said: “Last year we helped de­liver around 9,000 ba­bies across our two ma­ter­nity units at The Royal Old­ham and North Manch­ester Gen­eral Hos­pi­tals.

“Pa­tient safety is our num­ber one pri­or­ity and so when we are forced to tem­po­rar­ily close our labour wards and re­di­rect pa­tients to our other site or a neigh­bour­ing hos­pi­tal, this is only ever done to en­sure the safety of the women we pro­vide care to.

“Fur­ther in­vest­ment in our staffing, suc­cess­ful re­cruit­ment of more mid­wives, and changes in how we use our staff and our phys­i­cal beds has meant we have only had to close our ma­ter­nity ser­vice once since Jan­uary of this year.”

Step­ping Hill and Royal Old­ham are two of the hos­pi­tals most af­fected

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