“We have had a chronic shortage in the UK for many years as the birth rate has continued to increase,” said Louise Silverton from the Royal College of Midwives. “More midwives have been trained, and if the birth rate had stayed the same as in 2008, we would have enough, but women keep having more and more babies.”
New mother, Anna Martin, was one of the women impacted by the midwife shortage. She was turned away from the Leeds Teaching Hospital because of staff shortages. She ended up delivering her daughter in the car park.
“My husband dialed 999 who told him not to leave me, so he put them on speakerphone. Then I realized that it was going to happen then with nobody around to help,” Anna said. “I was really scared and I realized that the baby could die but the voice on the phone was telling us exactly what to do. Afterwards, I went through a real mixture of emotions: I was angry, I was disappointed…I wanted to kill somebody.”
Thankfully, Anna’s daughter was delivered safely, and because of that, Anna’s anger from the experience has dissipated.
“She was healthy and I was healthy. She is a brilliant baby, so I can’t be angry anymore.”
Hospitals in the South East area of the UK are experiencing the worst shortage – a shortfall of about 33%. Essentially, this means that there are other women like Anna, as well as other women that are not receiving the quality of care that they are entitled to.
But the problem isn’t just about a shortage. The NHS has to approve the employment of more midwives. And it seems that some of the UK hospitals are spending their bucks on more technology, which is important, but probably not as important as the human care needed for pregnant and delivering women.
“It is important to get newly qualified midwives employed. They are out there looking for jobs, but local hospitals need to be told to employ them by the government,” Silverton said, adding that, “A lot of hospitals are trying to save money on midwives to spend on technology, which means women are not getting the antenatal support, post natal care, and one to one care in the labor room from a midwife to which they are entitled. Priorities need to change. We believe that if the NHS employed the right number of midwives, there would be a lot of money saved in negligence cases.”
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