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Night-time maternity care 'inferior'

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Pregnant women giving birth at night get an inferior service from the NHS because junior staff are on duty and make poor decisions, it has been claimed.

Britain’s top maternity doctor warned the inexperience and insufficient skills of night time labour ward doctors can mean greatly reduced care for mothers.

In an interview with the Guardian, Dr Tony Falconer said: “Obstetric care isn’t the same at 3am as it is at 3pm, and it should be.

“This is a matter of huge concern.”

The president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists added: “Care overnight isn’t as robust as it is at it is at 9am or 2pm. It’s not as good. At 2am, you do not have the same experience.”

Dr Falconer, a consultant gynaecologist, told the newspaper that problems can occur with night births because trainee obstetricians and key staff such as anaesthetists are less experienced than those on day duty.

Junior obstetric doctors can lack the technical skills to use forceps or vacuum to ease a baby’s birth, he said.

And he went on to say disproportionate numbers of NHS payouts over alleged medical negligence in childbirth involve babies born overnight.

“One of the ironies of the health service, and this view is shared by very senior people, is this culture that the NHS basically runs at one level for 40 hours a week, and at a completely different level for the rest of the week,” said the doctor.

“And when you are dealing with acute services, that shouldn’t happen.”

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