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Specialist women's trust failing midwife staffing standard

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One of England’s two specialist women’s hospitals has admitted it is failing to hit recommended minimum levels for midwifery staffing.

Birmingham Women’s Foundation Trust has highlighted the problem in its most recently published board papers.

The papers say the trust “would be unable to meet” a Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists safety recommendation to have, as a minimum, one midwife for every 26 patients.

The matter was red-rated and classed as an “extreme” risk in the trust’s 26 May board meeting despite it having been discussed as far back as February and raised again in March.

The papers said: “Although the trust had adequate controls in place it would be unable to meet the national standard”.

The trust planned to complete a “bottom-up staffing review to gain assurance of correct midwifery establishment”.

The trust was also failing on a second recommendation by the royal college to employ consultants for 168 hours a week in units with 5,000 births or more a year, according to the minutes. The trust was only managing 78 hours.

The Royal College of Midwives has consistently warned about midwife shortages, however prime minister David Cameron last year quietly dropped an election pledge to recruit an extra 3,000 midwives.

In April, health minister Anne Milton defended the decision, telling a committee of MPs: “Complete and absolute focus on [midwife] staffing numbers is totally ridiculous.”

A Birmingham FT spokeswoman said the royal college’s staffing ratio required a “level of funding which we do not receive” and that it still compared favourably with the regional average.

She added: “We are confident that our overall staffing levels are safe and appropriate for our case mix. The trust continuously monitors midwifery staffing levels to ensure on-going quality and safe care.”

Consultants spent more time on the trust’s delivery suite than at “many other units nationally” and the trust was “proactively working towards the recommended levels”.

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