ROCKETING birth rates are leading to a shortage of midwives in the North East, according to health experts.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) claims a nine per cent increase in the number of midwives is needed to keep up with the baby boom, after recent figures showed the region’s birth rate has gone up significantly over the last 10 years.
However, Sunderland Royal Hospital says there is no shortage of midwives in the city and the birth rate has only gone up a small amount since last year.
Regionwide figures show there has been a 19 per cent increase in births since 2001, with numbers hitting 30,826 in 2010, up four per cent on the previous year.
This is the highest annual increase of England’s regions and the RCM estimates that at least 91 more midwives are needed in the North East, to add to the current 1,050, to ensure that mothers get safe and high-quality care.
The RCM says midwife shortages have a real and significant impact on the quality of care and the choices available to women, such as women wanting and expecting a home birth being denied one.
It said it could also lead to midwife-led units closing, permanently or temporarily, leaving many disappointed woman who wanted to give birth in them.
The RCM claims breastfeeding rates will not improve because there are not enough midwives to offer women the help and support they need, particularly in the postnatal period.
Jeanne Tarrant, RCM regional manager for the North East, said: “Whilst it is one of the betterstaffed regions, there is no doubt that more midwives are needed.
“It is also not just about numbers. Births are also becoming increasingly complex, putting even more demands on maternity services.
“More investment is needed, action is needed, and it is needed now. Without this I have real fears that maternity services in the North East will be struggling to cope with the demands on them.”
Margaret Deary, risk manager at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said: “There is no midwife shortage at Sunderland. We have 108 full-time equivalent of midwives.”
She said the recommended ratio is one midwife to 28 patients and Sunderland’s is only slightly under with one midwife to 30 patients.
She said: “Our birth rate was about 3,500, which is up about 100 on last year, which is not as significant an increase as some other areas.”