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Midwife shortages hit care standards

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A chronic shortage of midwives is contributing to poor maternity services across England, the Healthcare Commission has warned.

An audit by the watchdog ranked maternity units into four categories of service quality, with 21% falling into the lowest and 26% judged to be in the highest.

The average level of staffing in units was 31 midwives per 1,000 deliveries, a figure significantly short of RCM recommendations for 36 per 1,000. Only 18% of the country’s 148 units met the college’s target.

Nine trusts had 26 or fewer midwives per 1,000 deliveries. ‘Of these trusts, the majority scored “weak”, suggesting that very low staffing levels may be associated with poor overall performance,’ the HCC report states.

RCN maternity adviser Carolyn Basak said: ‘This shows very, very clearly that where there are more midwives there are better standards of care.’

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