Maternity units must be closed to make childbirth safer

Maternity units must be shut and merged in to big new ‘super-units’ to help women give birth safely experts say.Maternity units must be closed to make childbirth saferThe NHS maternity system is “unsustainable” and its out of hours care, which is “propped up by junior doctors”, is often poor, according to a new report RCOG release: Education and training of specialists to radically change published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The college recommended that services be merged into super-units providing specialist, round-the-clock cover with consultants working nights and weekends.

A “flexible workforce” must be created by giving doctors new training, so that more patients can be treated in community hospitals, local clinics, and even mobile health units, the report said.

The college argues that wards can only continue to be staffed by fully trained doctors through a process of downgrading or the merger of many local units, so that women with more complex problems can be moved on to a larger centre.

The report said: “The college is adamant that the obstetric delivery suite needs fully qualified specialists available at all times, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – more than half of all births, after all, take place ‘out of hours’.

“That requires more specialists which raises the issue of affordability. This may mean fewer acute obstetric units so that for the more specialised obstetric care women may have to travel farther as the service applies the logic that care should be ‘localised where possible, centralised where necessary’.”

Patient deaths in London were halved when services from hospitals were streamlined into only eight specialised units.

According to one recent study, babies born “out of hours” are a third more likely to die than those born during the working week.

Dr Wendy Reid, vice-president of the Royal College, said: “When you have a baby you deserve the same quality of care at 3am as at 3pm. We cannot go on running the NHS in our specialty propped up by junior doctors.

She added: “My focus has to be on patient safety because if you don’t get that right, you don’t have much of a right to comment on anything else.

“That’s why we’re pushing for specialists available on the labour ward, because that’s the high risk time. But that isn’t to the exclusion of interaction with the team all along the pregnancy so that you pick up as many people as potentially high risk before it happens.”

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