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Concerns have been raised over the level of safety that can be provided by midwives as an increasing number of staff shortages are putting strain on services. It is unknown as to what impact this has directly had on birth injury claims, but obviously there is the potential for errors to occur in these instances.
A survey by the Royal College of Midwives found that 8 out of 10 midwives do not believe their NHS Trust or board has enough staff to operate a safe service. Additionally, 42% reported that half of shifts are understaffed. An understaffed maternity ward poses great risk, including potential closures to expectant mothers, as well as the ability of staff to be able to safely care for all mothers and babies. It also gives rise to the potential for mothers to miss essential observations and monitoring, which can directly lead to adverse outcomes and the pursuit of birth injury compensation as a result.
The survey also revealed that seven out of 10 midwives have considered leaving the profession and 38% are seriously considering it. It is likely that the staff shortages are directly impacting individual workloads and contributing to the increase in those leaving the profession. Additionally, the survey showed that 63% of midwives are working beyond their contractual hours, with no additional pay. Midwives already work long shifts, and due to tiredness and exhaustion it may lead to an increase in the number of errors made which can have severe consequences for both mothers and babies and result in birth claims as a result.
It is hoped that there will be an increase in funding to help secure additional, new midwife roles across the NHS which will in turn lead to an increase in staff morale and retention. However, in the interim the findings of the survey raise concerns, especially for medical negligence solicitors Blackwater Law who see first-hand the impact on those affected by birth injuries to both mothers and babies.