Tuesday 28 August 2018 / 5:30 AM Health / Jonathan Ashworth

Almost half of maternity units close doors to new mothers

Almost half of maternity units close doors to new mothers

New research published today by the Labour Party has revealed that nearly half of England’s maternity units closed to new mothers at some point in 2017, up on the previous year.

The most commonly reported reason for closures was capacity and staffing issues. The Royal College of Midwives’ latest estimate is that the NHS in England has a shortage of 3,500 midwives.

Data obtained by Labour under the Freedom of Information Act shows:

  • There were at least 287 occasions when maternity units were closed to new mothers in 2017
  • 41 hospital trusts which responded to an FOI request said they temporarily closed maternity wards to new admissions at some point in 2017
  • Eight trusts had closures lasting more than 24 hours, while 11 trusts shut temporarily on more than ten separate occasions each in 2017
  • Hospitals report capacity and staffing issues as most common reason for closures

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Health, said:

“Expectant mothers deserve reassurance that the local maternity unit will be there for them when needed. It is a disgrace that almost half of maternity units in England had to close to new mothers at some point in 2017. The uncertainty for so many women just when they need the NHS most is unthinkable.

“Under this Government, maternity units are understaffed and under pressure. Labour is committed to making child health an absolute priority with our ambition of the healthiest children in the world. That means giving every child the best start in life including proper investment in maternity services.

“Every pregnant women turned away from a maternity unit due to staff shortages and shortages of beds and cots deserves an apology from Government ministers for the years of Tory cuts, deliberate under resourcing and mismanagement of the NHS. Mothers and babies deserve better than this.”