NHS ditches aim for mothers to see the same midwife from scan to delivery due to severe staff shortages
- Pregnant women can no longer expect the same midwife from scan to delivery
- NHS told trusts target should be ditched due to severe staffing shortages
- Royal College of Midwives announced plan to ballot members on strike action
Severe staffing shortages mean pregnant women can no longer expect to see the same midwife from scan to delivery, the NHS has admitted.
A major review of maternity services recommended in 2016 that hospitals should offer ‘continuity of carer’ to improve safety for mothers and babies.
It said women should see the same team of midwives throughout their pregnancy, labour and postnatal care.
But NHS bosses have now told trusts to abandon the target ‘until maternity services in England can demonstrate sufficient staffing levels’ to meet it. The health service is short of 2,000 midwives.
Severe staffing shortages mean pregnant women can no longer expect to see the same midwife from scan to delivery, the NHS has admitted
Its admission comes a day after the Royal College of Midwives announced they plan to ballot members on industrial action in a dispute over pay.
Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, chief midwifery officer at NHS England, had championed the continuity of carer policy.
However, Donna Ockenden’s report in March into fatal failings at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust said the model should be suspended until more evidence was gathered about its effectiveness and there were enough midwives to meet minimum staffing requirements.
Chief midwifery officer at NHS England, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, pictured here (left) with Catherine, Princess of Wales, had championed the continuity of carer policy
Miss Ockenden said patient safety had been ‘compromised by the unprecedented pressures that continuity of carer models of care place on maternity services already under significant strain’.
In response, NHS England said continuity of carer services should be adequately staffed, but refused to suspend the model, stating it was still part of its plans for interventions to meet national maternity safety ambitions, including reducing stillbirths and neonatal deaths.
Donna Ockenden’s report in March into fatal failings at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust said the model should be suspended until more evidence was gathered
Now Professor Dunkley-Bent and chief nurse Dame Ruth May have written to all trusts to say the model is no longer a priority.
Their letter, first reported by the Health Service Journal, says trusts that ‘can demonstrate staffing meets safe minimum requirements’ can continue with the model, but those that can’t must ‘immediately’ suspend it.
In 2016, the National Maternity Review’s report, Better Births, set out a vision for services to become safer and more personalised.