Corby named as UK’s biggest baby birth hotspot in report on ‘midwife shortage’

NGH has been awarded �480,000 for a midwife-led unit
NGH has been awarded �480,000 for a midwife-led unit
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It has been revealed that Corby has the fastest-growing number of births in the United Kingdom, after a report claimed that a baby boom has pushed maternity services in the UK to a “crucial tipping point.”

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says there is a massive shortage of midwives after some areas of the UK has seen a 50 per cent rise in the number of births in the last few years.

Birth rates in Corby are growing almost three times faster than the English average of 21 per cent, with birth rates in the town jumping 63 per cent between 2002 and 2011.

In a report to be published in parliament on Tuesday, the RCM warned that an extra 5,000 midwives were needed in England alone to deal with the highest birth rate in 40 years.

It is calling on the Government to provide a guarantee not to cut midwife training places.

Each of the four parts of the UK has experienced a rise in the number of births in the last decade - 22 per cent in England, 17 per cent in Wales, 15 per cent in Northern Ireland and 12 per cent in Scotland.

The number of babies born in some “baby boom hotspots” of England has jumped more than 50 per cent in recent years, according to an RCM analysis of ONS statistics.

The RCM said England and Wales had been “overwhelmed” by the rising birth rate, but while midwife numbers were increasing a little, the strain on numbers has led to antenatal care of expectant mothers becoming “threadbare”.

There are also concerns about an ageing number of midwives, with too few following in their footsteps.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said: “England remains around 5,000 midwives short of the number required to provide mothers and babies with high-quality service they need and deserve.

“Maternity care is the earliest health intervention of all and getting care right for mothers and babies is a vital part of supporting families and building a foundation for good health in later life.”

She said that while more midwives are being employed in England and the availability of training is on the rise, efforts need to be redoubled because of the baby boom and the relentless rise in the numbers being born.

“A corner is being turned, but this is no time for backsliding from the Government. Maternity units are under intense strain and have been now for many years, with many midwives really at the end of their tether in terms of what they can tolerate.

“We are reaching a crucial tipping point for maternity services in England.”

The shortage of midwives has forced some NHS maternity hospitals to close their doors and temporarily turn women away who are about to give birth, according to the Sunday Times.

An RCM report last year found more than half of NHS trusts had to close their door an average of seven times a year and divert women to other maternity hospitals because they could not cope with numbers, the newspaper said.

The ONS forecasts that births in England could reach 743,000 by 2014. The figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland seem to have plateaued, the RCM said.

There is also an increase in the number of older mothers giving birth in England. The number of babies born each year to women aged 40 or above jumped by more than 80 per cent between 2001 and 2011.

The report said: “Older mothers place greater demands on maternity services, with a greater likelihood of complications and the need for medical intervention.”

In contrast, since the start of the baby boom the number of babies born to girls and women under 20 has fallen dramatically, by 18 per cent - fewer than in any year since 1955. The RCM also warned that an increasingly ageing workforce of midwives would cause an even greater strain on services over the next 15 years.

Despite the current shortage of midwives and the increasing birth rate, the 2012 heads of midwifery (HOMs) survey found that 26.6 per cent of HOMs reported that their budget had decreased in the last 12 months and 12.8 per cent of HOMs reported reductions in services that their unit provides.

Some 9.7 per cent of HOMs who have a midwife-led birthing unit in their trusts reported that it was in danger of closing, therefore restricting the choice available to women.

More than half (52.7 per cent) of HOMs reported that in the last 12 months they had to take the decision to close their unit due to being unable to cope with the demand.