Nursing representatives have warned that staffing problems threaten the quality of maternity care in the UK.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said there is a shortage of midwives to deal with the current baby boom. And the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said poor management and staffing problems were damaging the ability of nursing teams to cope with babies who need medical attention.
In response to ‘vision documents’ published by each English NHS region setting out their future priorities the RCM said much more needed to be done to meet the government’s Maternity Matters goals of delivering improved services and choices in maternity care.
RCM general secretary Dame Karlene Davis said: “All these vision documents paint a picture of a great future for maternity services, but they could and should be so much better. The service is kept afloat by the hard work, skill and devotion of its midwives and other maternity staff.
“I would not say that Maternity Matters is in tatters, but implementation is moving forward at a glacial pace when what we need is a torrent of activity and investment. Midwife numbers are not keeping up with the birth rate, and it is shocking that some maternity budgets are actually falling while the birth rate is increasing.”
Meanwhile, the RCN hit out at the way neonatal wards were being run in its Position Statement on Neonatal Nurse Staffing.
It said: “There is a tendency among many managers to focus upon the ratio of cots to staff numbers. We strongly believe that there needs to be a refocus to match staffing requirements to activity levels and dependency, ensuring that the overall knowledge, skills and competencies within the nursing team meet the needs of babies on the unit at anyone time.”
It also called for a clear strategy to address the deficiency in the number of neonatal nurses in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.