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Scottish maternity unit to remain shut until graduate midwives fill midwife vacancies

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Concern has been aired over the ongoing closure of a birthing centre in North East Scotland due to severe midwife shortages. 

NHS Grampian announced in May that the midwifery unit at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital would be collocated with the labour ward as a temporary measure until staff vacancies were filled. It is understood that the unit was originally only planned to stay shut for three months.

“It’s not the situation we would like to see in Aberdeen and the Grampian area”

Mary Ross-Davie

But today the health board told Nursing Times the closure was expected to remain in place until late September when 22 graduates from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen were due to take up their new positions.

An NHS Grampian spokesman said: “The alongside midwifery unit (AMU) in Aberdeen Maternity Hospital remains collocated with the labour ward which has been the case since May.”

He added: “This temporary measure needs to be in place until the 22 newly recruited graduates from Robert Gordon University come into post.

“This will be towards the end of September however the midwifery manager responsible for the AMU is currently reviewing the timeline to explore the possibility of reopening following the successful recruitment to six health care support worker posts,” he said.

The health board spokesman confirmed that the unit currently had 20.8 whole time equivalent midwife vacancies.

Dr Mary Ross-Davie, the Royal College of Midwives’ director for Scotland, said it was a “real shame” when women were not able to have a full range of choice over where they gave birth. 

She said: “It’s not the situation we would like to see in Aberdeen and the Grampian area.”

Dr Ross-Davie said midwife shortages in the country were not as bad as they were in England but that the picture was “worsening”.

She added: “Until recently we really didn’t have shortages of midwives in Scotland but because we have such an ageing population of midwives – over 40% of midwives in Scotland are over the age of 50 – we are seeing a lot more midwives retiring.”

Royal College of Midwives

Mary Ross-Davie

Mary Ross-Davie

Dr Ross-Davie said it was important that the newly qualified midwives starting on the unit were supported in their new role to embed their skills and were joined on shift by more senior members of staff, in order to bring a “balance in experience and expertise” for patients.

She added: “Where we have a situation where we have a shortage of midwives we don’t want that to mean the newly qualified midwives don’t get that level of support, so we are keeping a close eye on that and making sure that doesn’t happen.”

Dr Ross-Davie noted that work was underway to boost midwife numbers in Scotland, including making it quicker for registered nurses to train in midwifery and offering more students government-funded degree programmes.

Earlier this month, NHS Grampian announced it was closing two wards for dementia patients at Royal Cornhill Hospital in Aberdeen for a year due to nursing shortages, as reported in Nursing Times.

The health board said the hospital had 55.6 registered nursing vacancies.

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