Monday, 12 March 2007

Midwifery Shortages

Have just returned from another horrendously busy 12 hours working on the labour ward. As usual, the maternity unit is dangerously understaffed with barely enough midwives to look after the labouring women safely. Numerous pieces of research and evidence based work has been carried out to assess just how many midwives are needed to actually give expert safe care to a woman in labour. This has been assessed and worked out as, funnily enough, one midwife to one woman. This ensures that women are given one to one care which has again been proven by research to contribute to the increased chance of a woman achieving a normal delivery, without intervention and too many pharmacological types of pain relief for labour.

Unfortunately, too many maternity units are running at an all time low in terms of midwives and interestingly the national caesarean section rate is increasing rapidly. I wonder if there is a link somewhere? The Government pays lip service to the fact that women need to one to one care in labour and has even gone to the trouble of producing a very large document to ‘prove it!’ But, midwifery managers are told to keep the numbers of midwives down that they employ and not to hire ‘bank staff’ in times of crisis or at any time for that matter, to save money because otherwise the ‘government’ will have to close the maternity units down because they cost too much money. What a contradiction.

This, unfortunately, could be very costly for some maternity units in the long run. A litigation case that could be proven to be linked to midwifery shortages, for example, could cost millions. Another simple fact is ‘burnout’, low morale; extra demands on an already overstretched service can all lead to a huge increase in sickness levels which in turn leads to extra money being spent and depletion in the work force.

The midwifery profession is a mirror of the junior doctors plight in that midwives now qualifying after 3 or in some cases, 5 years of hard training, are not able to obtain jobs anywhere apart from some supermarket somewhere AND before someone else comments (letters in the Guardian) that just because a doctor or midwife has spent so many years working hard for a profession, it doesn’t mean they should automatically get a job, let me remind that person that let’s hope that in years to come they don’t need the expert help of a doctor or a midwife because there won’t be any. The medical and midwifery profession are unique and a vocation, not just another job.

Oh and another gem of advice, again from the Government (Sunday Times, 11th March, 2007) apparently, all the Nursing Profession need to do improve patient care is “smile”.

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