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Shortage of midwives leads to poor care

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A shortage of midwives is contributing to poor maternity services across England, a health watchdog warned today.

A shortage of midwives is contributing to poor maternity services across England, a health watchdog warned today.

The Healthcare Commission audit found that that the average level of staffing in units was 31 midwives per 1000 deliveries, a figure significantly below the Royal College of Midwives recommendation of 36 per 1000.

At nine trusts there were just 26 midwives per 1000 deliveries or fewer. 'Of these trusts, the majority scored ‘weak’, suggesting that very low staffing levels may be associated with poor overall performance,’ the report said.

Only 18% of the country’s 148 units met the RCM recommended levels for midwife numbers.

Overall the audit found that services across the country were mixed. The watchdog ranked the units in four categories, with 31 (21%) falling into lowest category, and 38 (26%) judged to be in the highest.

In response to the review, health secretary Alan Johnson announced £122m of extra funding to improve maternity services over the next three years.

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