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More midwives needed to tackle smoking during pregnancy

More midwives are needed to address wide regional variation in percentage of women who continue to smoke during pregnancy, according to unions.

The NHS Information Centre published data last week revealing a wide regional variation in the percentage of women who smoked right up to the time of giving birth in the period from October to December 2011.

The average percentage across England was 13.4%. But among strategic health authority areas, this varied from 20.2% in NHS North East and 16.9% in NHS North West to 6.1% in NHS London and 10.7% in NHS South Central. Among primary care trusts, the highest was 30.3% in NHS Blackpool and the lowest was 2.8% in NHS Brent.

Royal College of Midwives deputy general secretary Louise Silverton described the figures as “alarming”.

She said: “The North- South divide revealed in these statistics highlights the gaping health inequalities in access to appropriate public health services.”

Ms Silverton added: “Midwives play a vital role in promoting public health, therefore, we urge all SHAs and local authorities to invest in midwives to support smoking cessation programmes. We need more midwives to deliver the public health agenda.”

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