Half of maternity units close their doors to women in labour amid
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Ms Walton said midwives were suffering stress and burn out in their attempt to keep mothers and babies safe.”This new RCM report shows a system that is about to buckle at the seams and only able to deliver high quality care through the efforts and dedication of its staff,” she said.The survey found that two thirds of senior midwives said that community staff had be called in to cover the labour and delivery suited, with 45 per cent saying this restricted the home birth service.In the submission, the RCM called for a 3.9 per cent uplift for staff, plus an increase of £800 for every point on national pay scales.Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser, from the National Childbirth Trust said: “It’s appalling that a shortage of midwives means that so many units have been closed time and again so that pregnant women are pushed from pillar to post in the throes of labour.“When a maternity unit closes at short notice, women in advanced labour may be told to travel miles to another hospital, leaving them anxious and frightened about having their baby in a car or by the roadside.”A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We want the NHS to be one of the safest places in the world to have a baby and patients should be reassured we continue to have enough midwives in the NHS, with 1600 more than in May 2010.”Maternity units cannot predict when exactly women will give birth and temporary closures are well rehearsed safety measures which we expect trusts to use to safely manage peaks in admissions.” Half of maternity units had to close their doors to women in labour last year due to shortages of staff, leading midwives have warned.New figures from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) show that units closed their doors on 209 occasions, with one forced to turn women away on 33 occasions.Overall, 49 per cent of units closed last year – a rise from 39 per cent the previous year, the RCM’s analysis found.Midwives said they were being forced to refuse home births to women who wanted them, and to turn others away from units, because they were too few staff or beds to cope with pressures.Parenting groups said women in labour were being forced to travel miles, and left in fear of having their child in the car or by the roadside.Gill Walton, General Secretary of the RCM, said mothers and babies were suffering, as a result of a shortage of 3,500 midwives.“All of this again shows how UK maternity services are overworked, understaffed, underfunded and struggling to meet the demands being placed on them. This is deeply worrying for the quality of care women are receiving, and the safety of services,” she said.The report, based on a survey of heads of midwifery across the UK was published as the union gave evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body.