Midwife whistleblower describes 'crisis' that feels like a 'circus show' on Midlands ward

  • ITV News Central Health Correspondent Nancy Cole sat down with a midwife who shared her experience of working on a Midlands maternity ward.

A midwife who works in a Midlands hospital has said there is a "crisis" in maternity care and is calling for urgent change.

The whistleblower, who spoke exclusively to ITV News Central, said even before stepping into work she feels anxious about what lies ahead.

She claimed that staff put on a "circus show" when they receive a visit from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and she doesn't believe any investigation will show the true extent of failings.

"Every night before a shift, it's anxiety, it's feeling sick," the midwife, who asked to be anonymous, told ITV News Central.

"You start the shift anxious because you don't know what's going to come through the door and you leave the shift thinking that you've not done good enough."

The midwife said there are also serious safety problems across wards, with maternity units overstretched and understaffed.

"I look at the staffing and I look at the equipment we have available and I just think, how are we going to maintain safety today?

"You pull the emergency bell and you think for a second 'is somebody going to come or am I it?'” 

"There have been times where I've sat in a room with a woman that needs a baby delivered, and it's just a ticking time bomb. But we can't physically do anything because there are no theatres."

The midwife says that concerns over care and safety on maternity wards are not being treated as a priority by those in charge. Credit: ITV News Central

In recent years, midwives have raised similar concerns over working conditions.

The CQC has launched a national maternity inspection programme into all of England's maternity units to give the fullest picture of what care looks like right now.

This midwife doesn't believe any investigation will show the true extent of failings.

"We are almost prepped for when the CQC is coming, you see a lot more management present that you probably wouldn't see, and there's a lot more staff put on. There's people completing clinical checks, that wouldn't normally do to make it look like that's being done."

"To then see this almost circus show going on, it is quite angering, to be honest. This is not the reality of what we're working in. You are not going to get the support and the budgets, unless they see it in the absolute dregs that it is on a day to day basis."

When asked if there was a crisis in maternity care, the midwife replied without hesitation: "Yes, absolutely."

"I think that the more that it is overlooked and not placed as a priority, the impact will be poorer outcomes. I think the more that we ignore it, the more that the care becomes unsafe over time because the staffing is the worst I've ever seen.

"If you don't think there's a crisis as government or clinical directors of hospitals, then you're delusional.

"Because on a unit that should be staffed with 16 to 20 midwives, if you've got eight or nine on that day, I don't have to be a mathematician to tell you that is not safe."

In response, Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives said: "Staffing shortages undoubtedly compromise safety, something that’s long been highlighted by the Royal College of Midwives, and by many reviews into failing maternity services undoubtedly compromise safety.

“The Government has to listen to those staff and women who are working in and using our maternity services and it has to act.

"We have had review after review laying out the same conclusions and recommendations, yet still the Government shows no urgency. Maternity staff and the women and families in their care deserve better.”

ITV News Central asked the CQC about the midwife's allegations. They said that on some inspections, trusts are given 48 hours' notice, but most risk-based inspections are unannounced. They also said they "use a wide range of data and intelligence to monitor the quality and safety of services being provided".

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said: "We are committed to ensuring all women receive safe and compassionate care from maternity services and this is a priority in our Women’s Health Strategy for 2024.

“NHS England’s three-year plan for maternity and neonatal services, backed by £186 million per year from April, will make maternity services safer, more personalised, and more equitable for women, babies, and families.”

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