UK midwife's witness account of working in an NHS hospital

07 January 2014
A midwife
A midwife working in a busy hospital in the United Kingdom has contributed an article about her work in a busy National Health Service hospital to a national newspaper. Here are some extracts.

"As a midwife in an NHS hospital, I work on a joint antenatal and postnatal ward with capacity for 28 women and up to 16 babies. This includes women immediately out of theatre from a caesarean section and pre-term babies that need extra care. Often on night shifts, due to understaffing, there are only two midwives and one or two maternity auxiliary support workers to care for a constantly full ward.

This means that if there is an emergency, which can happen in childbirth, the limited staff must manage it, and so nobody else is available to support all the other women. I love supporting women to breastfeed but in this environment I am rarely able to spend the time at a woman’s side.

Due to understaffing I regularly work for nearly 13 hours without a break, even though I know I should take one. The workload is so high that I know that if I do not complete a task for a woman, there is no one to do it. These tasks are essential to maintain the safety of women and their babies.

In our NHS Trust – as in many others – we have a deficit of millions of pounds, and so there is no opportunity to hire any more midwives. If a midwife is sick, we are not able to replace them, and the remaining midwives cover the work load. As this situation persists, the extra pressure means that more midwives become unwell and the problem can only get worse."

Read more here: (article from The Independent, UK)

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