Half of maternity units couldn't admit new mothers last year

New research published today by Labour revealed that nearly half of England’s maternity units closed to new mothers at some point in 2017.

The most commonly reported reason for closures was capacity and staffing issues, with the Royal College of Midwives estimating the NHS has a shortage of 3,500 midwives.

According to the findings, there were at least 287 occasions when maternity units were closed to new mothers in 2017, while 41 hospital trusts said they had temporarily closed maternity wards to new admissions at some point in 2017.

Eight trusts had closures lasting more than 24 hours, while 11 trusts shut temporarily on more than ten separate occasions last year.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour's Shadow Secretary for Health labeled the findings "a disgrace".

“Expectant mothers deserve reassurance that the local maternity unit will be there for them when needed." he said.

“Under this Government, maternity units are understaffed and under pressure. Labour is committed to making child health an absolute priority with our ambition of the healthiest children in the world. That means giving every child the best start in life including proper investment in maternity services.

“Every pregnant women turned away from a maternity unit due to staff shortages and shortages of beds and cots deserves an apology from Government ministers for the years of Tory cuts, deliberate under resourcing and mismanagement of the NHS. Mothers and babies deserve better than this.”

The government has been under pressure to boost health spending, and ministers have claimed they are planning to train 6,000 midwives over the next four years.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We want the NHS to be one of the safest places in the world to have a baby and earlier this year we announced a 25% increase in midwifery training places.

“Temporary closures in NHS maternity units are well-rehearsed safety measures, which trusts use to safely manage peaks in admissions. To use these figures as an indication of safe staffing issues, particularly when a number of them could have been for a matter of hours, is misleading because maternity services are unable to plan the exact time and place of birth for all women in their care.”

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