Almost half of new mothers being discharged from hospital too early

1 September 2014

Almost half of new mothers being discharged from hospital too early

Survey reveals that 40% of new mothers are being discharged from hospital too soon after giving birth as fresh concerns over NHS postnatal care are reflected by the Royal College of Midwives.

Research undertaken by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Netmums website found that two out of five mothers feel they are being discharged from hospital too soon after giving birth.

9% said they felt “rushed out” with 31% said they were “keen to get home, but also felt unsupported and not quite ready to leave.”

The findings came from a survey of 486 mothers undertaken last year. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellent (Nice), the governments health advisers, recommend guidance as to the length of stay in a maternity award and the research raises potential concern that hospitals may be breaching the guidance. deals with post natal cases and enquiry where potential medical negligence has arisen due to discharges being rushed with mother and child returning home too early. The specialist birth injury teams have dealt with cases where a birth defect may be missed such as clubbed foot, poor episiotomy care, c-section post operation monitoring being missed with factors like iron deficiency and risk of blood haemorrhage not being investigated in as much detail as possibly could have been taken.  

"Real Concern"

NICE guidance says that "length of stay in a maternity unit should be discussed between the individual woman and her healthcare professional, taking into account the health and wellbeing of the woman and her baby and the level of support available following discharge".

The RCM feels that, despite this, "this is clearly not happening". It felt there was “ a real concern” at the large number of women leaving hospital before they felt ready, adding that a nationwide shortage of midwives did not help.

Mothers' average length of stay in hospital has been falling for about 15 years, and most leave within six hours of their delivery.

One mother who took part in the survey said: "I had great care with my first baby, but with the second I was rushed home within a couple of hours of giving birth, distressed and in pain, [and] probably still in shock, which contributed to my postnatal depression."


The RCM report findings warns that some mothers and their babies are receiving poor care in the days and weeks after the birth, both in hospital and when they get home. 2,000 midwives took part in a separate survey which one stating: "The management told me I had to discharge this woman who was struggling with breastfeeding as we needed the bed. There is little support for the women due to our early discharge policy."

The NCT, a charity which supports new parents, said it was unacceptable for mothers to be sent home before felt ready to do so.

"Sometimes new mums want to get home quickly but it is unacceptable if they are discharged early because of staff shortages or lack of beds. Giving birth can be a stressful time and the last thing new parents need is to be sent home before they feel ready," said Belinda Phipps, its chief executive.

"It is also deeply frustrating that Nice guidelines on postnatal care are still not being implemented. We need to see a rise in the number of midwives and better continuity of care so women have access to a midwife they know and trust – which leads to better outcomes for parents and babies."

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