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UK health trusts suspend home birth services as midwives shortage deepens

A severe shortage of midwives has led to home birth services being closed or reduced by a number of hospital trusts across the UK, with pregnant women frequently left in limbo as to where they will be able to give birth.

The Observer has found more than 20 trusts that have had disrupted home birth services in the past three months. Eight confirmed their services remain suspended due to staff shortages. They include East Kent Hospitals, Swansea Bay University Health Board and NHS Dumfries and Galloway – all of which report that the situation is under constant review.

Home birth services at some trusts, such as Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and University Hospitals of Derby and Burton, have been closed since August. Others have reopened after short suspensions or have written to expectant parents to say they cannot guarantee sending a midwife when there is high demand or staff shortages.

The findings come a week after midwives across Britain staged protests to call on the government to address the “crisis” in maternity care, with staff suffering from chronic burnout and stress.

Midwives are being driven out of the NHS by understaffing and fears they cannot deliver safe care, according to a recent survey published by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

Maria Booker, programmes director at the charity Birthrights, said: “Staffing pressures in maternity services are very real right now. But for many women the option to give birth at home is not a luxury but the only option that feels safe to them."

“Some know they will labour better at home while some do not want to visit hospital during a pandemic. Others have a had a previous traumatic hospital birth. We cannot just accept that home birth and other choices go out the window every time a maternity service is squeezed.”

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Source: The Guardian, 28 November 2021


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