NHS maternity units were forced to close 287 times in 2017, new research from Labour has found. Freedom of information (FoI) requests sent by the Labour party to 135 hospital trusts in England highlighted that 46% of maternity units were closed as a result of staff shortages and other resourcing problems, _The Guardian_ reported. They found that eleven trusts had been forced to close more than ten times in one year. Subsequently, expectant mothers visiting units during these closures were sent elsewhere.
Specific examples of closures included a Bristol trust which was closed 29 times in total, including being shut for eight days over the 2017-18 New Year period. Similarly, a unit in Dorset closed 16 times of a year and a unit in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, was shut for a three-week period.
The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, called the statistics “a disgrace” and linked the closures with the issue of midwife shortages. In January The Royal College of Midwives warned that “the NHS in England remains 3500 midwives short of the number of midwives it needs to deliver a safe and high-quality maternity service.”
“We want the NHS to be one of the safest places in the world to have a baby and earlier this year we announced a 25% increase in midwifery training places,” a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said.