Today the BBC have released the findings of a freedom of information request on temporary closures of maternity units.
Commenting on the findings, Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Birth is unpredictable and sometimes units get a rush of births that is unavoidable and cannot be planned for.
“We respect and support decisions made to close maternity units when to not do so will compromise the safety of the women already being cared for on the unit. However, if units are regularly and persistently having to close their doors to women it suggests there is a serious, underlying problem around their capacity and staffing levels that needs urgent attention and action.
“When units close their doors it leaves those women turned away possibly upset and disappointed because they are not giving birth in the unit of their choice, and it is choice of place of birth that is one of the key foundations of the Government’s maternity plans. It is also very worrying for those women who may be in labour and may be distressed to have to travel to another unit, possibly some miles away.
“This Government is bringing more midwives into the NHS and that has to be recognised. However, birth rates remain very high and services are seeing more pregnancies with greater levels of complications because of increases in obesity and older women giving birth, among many other reasons. These women often need more support and advice in their pregnancy. It is crucial that services have the right number of staff and resources to give all women the care they deserve.
““I think this is just the tip of the iceberg and a sign of serious underlying problems in maternity services. England remains seriously short of midwives and we still need another 4,500 extra midwives in the NHS, now. Progress is being made and we do have one of the best maternity services in the world. But as these results show, there is still a long way to go.