Maternity report highlights shortages

Mothers and babies could be put at risk because of staff shortages on maternity wards in England.

The Healthcare Commission has warned that women are being admitted to units short of doctors and midwives while some do not have enough beds, baths or toilets.

Choice over where and how they give birth is also limited.

The large-scale review, of all maternity units in 150 NHS trusts in England, examined all aspects of maternity care.

It found that in the average trust each maternity bed is used for 0.7 births per day, but in some trusts each bed is used for 1.4 births per day.

'This seems excessive and there is clearly a need to increase the capacity of delivery beds in these units,' the report said.

Some 16.5 per cent of trusts had as many as one bath per delivery room, while 38 per cent reported one shower per delivery room.

'Ideally, all delivery rooms should have a bath or shower room en-suite, but there is clearly a long way to go before this position is reached,' the report said.

One of the Government's key aims is to give every woman choice over where to give birth, including in units led by obstetricians, or midwives, or at home.

But the report found for the majority of trusts the choice 'is currently very limited'.

The study also pointed to some hospitals having higher Caesarean rates than others, 'nearly always higher' than the 15 per cent recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Sir Ian Kennedy, the Commission's chairman, said: 'There is clearly more to be done to improve the quality of clinical care as well as the experiences of women.'