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Critical Shortfall in Number of Midwives Poses Real Threat

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Births in England have risen 22 per cent over the past two decades, according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).  However, the number of practicing midwives has not increased in the same ratio.

This has led to parts of England having a desperate shortage of midwives to cope with today’s increased number of births.  This, coupled with the fact that many births are becoming increasingly complex due to a greater number older and obese woman needing extra support, means that maternity services in some parts of the country are close to critical.

Once again it’s proving to be a ‘postcode lottery,’ with the east of England and the East Midlands needing a massive 41 per cent more midwives, the south east needing another 33 per cent and the north east and north west another 10 per cent.

Overall this amounts to an extra 4,700 midwives necessary throughout England to cope with the demand.  The amount of shortages is calculated by estimating that one midwife is needed for 35 births at home or in a midwife led unit, or for 28 births in a hospital.  Midwife services in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are not, at present, experiencing any shortfalls in the number of qualified midwives.  The problem, according to Cathy Warwick, RCM General Secretary, is in England alone.

Concerns have also been expressed by the charity, Action against Medical Accidents, who have said that in some areas of England the shortage is now becoming desperate.

The Department of Health has responded by saying that numbers have risen and that the number of people training to become to become midwives is at a record level.

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