The survey was published by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) on Saturday, which highlighted that maternity unit closures, budget and training cuts are among the issues that are affecting midwives and other maternity care staff.
The RCM says that maternity units across the UK “are facing unprecedented challenges” as the shortage of midwives, historically high birth rates and an increase in complex births put pressure on public maternity services.
In response to the survey findings, Chief Executive of the RCM Cathy Warwick said: “Midwives and maternity support workers are too often keeping services afloat by working long hours, often unpaid overtime and missing breaks. This is not a situation that leads to safe and high quality of care women are receiving, and the safety of services.”
According the Heads of Midwifery survey, over two-fifths of maternity units closed temporarily last year because of the overwhelming demand for services (32.8% in 2014 and 41.5% in 2015).
On average, units closed 6.6 times on different occasions during 2014 and 4.8 separate occasions during 2015.
However, 91.3% of senior midwives who took the survey this year said they have been dealing with more complex births than last year.
The shortage of midwives is also affecting services, with 29.6% of respondents to the Heads of Midwifery survey claiming that their unit required more midwives to cope with the demand.
11% also said they have had to reduce maternity services, such as the reduction of specialist midwives, fewer parent classes, as well as less bereavement and breastfeeding support.
“All of this shows a system that is cracking at the seams and only able to deliver high quality care through the efforts and dedication of its staff. When services are operating at or beyond their capacity, safety is compromised and mistakes can, and almost certainly will be made, through no fault of the dedicated staff delivering the service,” Cathy Warwick added.
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