Warning over midwife shortage

A committee of Assembly Members has warned that the Welsh Government is not moving quickly enough to address problems over maternity staff shortages, and has called on it to act urgently.

Welsh Government: Midwife numbers are increasing

Responding to a National Assembly report criticising its 'lack of urgency' over staff shortages in maternity units, the Welsh Government said the maternity workforce is continuing to increase in Wales.

The numbers of midwifery training places commissioned has increased again this year from last year's numbers.NHS organisations are responsible for ensuring that they have the appropriate number of staff and skill mix to meet fluctuating demand. Since 1999, the maternity workforce, including midwives and midwifery support workers, has increased by 12% in Wales.

We require all maternity units in Wales to comply with Birth Rate Plus - as recommended by the Royal College of Midwives - on the number of midwives required to deliver safe services.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Midwives' union: 'No doubt more midwives are needed'

The Royal College of Midwives said that there is a "significant" shortfall in midwife numbers in Wales, and that the Welsh Government needs to act now to stop it worsening, and impacting on the quality of care women receive.

There is no doubt that more midwives are needed in Wales.

The shortfall is not huge, but it is significant enough and the Welsh Government needs to take action now to prevent this situation from worsening.

We also need to at least sustain the proposed increase in the number of midwives in training in years to come.

Further cuts in numbers will have a negative impact on the quality of maternity care that women receive.

We now need to see the Welsh Government's stated commitment to maternity services turn into action.

– Julia Chandler, the Royal College of Midwives National Officer for Wales

It also said that "there is no doubt that the Welsh caesarean section rate is high" and that adequate staffing levels will "enable midwives to give women more support and time to help them make a more informed decision on how they deliver their baby."

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'Urgent action needed' over maternity staff shortages

The report commented on 'a climate of staff shortages and squeezed resources' in Welsh maternity services. Credit: PA

Action is not being taken quickly enough to tackle staff shortages in maternity units in Wales, according to the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee.

Its report said the Welsh Government had made progress since a previous report in 2010, but they still have serious concerns.

They are worried about "whether NHS Wales can continue to offer a high-quality service in light of the pressures on resources", and also highlighted a high rate of caesarian section births in Welsh hospitals - around one in four deliveries, which is in line with the UK average.

"The Committee found that, in the main, maternity services in Wales delivered positive experiences for most patients", Darren Millar AM, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said.

"But we also found a lack of urgency in the Welsh Government's progress which, at a time of stretched resources and radical changes in approach to the provision of all services by Local Health Boards - this concerned us greatly."

"We call upon the Welsh Government to recognise and urgently address these concerns."