The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) are urging NHS Trusts and Boards to ensure that maternity staff are not redeployed to other areas of the hospital as COVID-19 cases rise again.
The RCOG and RCM are concerned the safe delivery of maternity services will be under threat if staff are being taken away from caring for pregnant women and placed elsewhere, especially when there is already a chronic shortage of midwives and doctors.
The call echoes a request made by the Colleges last year in a letter to hospital trust and board chief executives as the country prepared for the second wave. In the first wave, 61% of people who responded to an RCOG survey said medical staff were redeployed out of maternity services during the pandemic.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “NHS Trusts and Boards are facing immense pressures this festive period as the new variant takes hold and more COVID-19 hospital admissions are expected. Healthcare services are already facing chronic staff shortages and we are particularly concerned about the available maternity staff being redeployed.
“Maternity services are ‘front door’ essential services. Inpatient maternity services provide care that is largely unscheduled or urgent, with workloads difficult to anticipate in advance. Maternity staff can’t be replaced by other staff groups because of their specialist skillset and that’s why protecting this workforce and ensuring services are properly resourced is crucial to sustaining maternity care.
“We understand this is a very worrying time for many women who are pregnant. It’s vital, despite these challenges, that women and their families are provided with safe and personalised care. We also want to stress that maternity services are still open for business and if you have any concerns about you or your baby’s wellbeing then don’t delay in seeking help.”
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said: “We know that the NHS is under incredible strain at the moment, as it has been for the past 18 months. Maternity services are no different and are buckling under the weight of demands and COVID related staff absences that are as high as 45 per cent in some trusts. This is on the back of serious shortages that existed before the pandemic. Midwives, maternity support workers and their colleagues have been there for women, babies and their families throughout this pandemic, twenty-four hours a day, every day, and we need to keep them there. We have asked before, and we are asking again, for Trust and Board Chief Executives to ringfence maternity and keep midwives, maternity support workers, obstetricians and anaesthetists where they are needed most, caring for women in maternity services.”
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About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.
About the RCM
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website.