NHS maternity units shutting down due to lack of beds and staff

11 July 2014

NHS maternity units shutting down due to lack of beds and staff

One in 10 trusts are being forced to close their maternity units 10 times or more in the wake of CQC concerns that units are struggling under increasing pressure on staff and bed availability for patients.

Freedom of Information Act data provided to the BBC shows that 51% of the trusts that responded to the FOI request temporarily closed units in 2013.

Data obtained by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act showed 62 trusts out of 121 respondents - or 51% - temporarily closed units in 2013.

"A serious underlying problem"

62 trusts were identified through their responses to the request representing 51% of those asked, with some 12% closing their units 10 times or more.

Some units were shut down for a few hours, but there were examples of wards being closed for new patients for periods of time up to 48 hours such was the pressure on staff and bed availability.

Mistreatment.com runs a number of specialist teams that can assist with patient concerning complaints regarding nurses, midwifery staff and hospital staffing in general and can highlight all available options with our free support services.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust came top of the closures list, with 97 closures across two hospitals - the Queen's Medical Centre 48 times and Nottingham City Hospital on 49 occasions.

This was followed by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, with 89 closures across its two hospitals - Leeds General Infirmary, 60 times, and St James's University Hospital, 29 times.

In Wales, six out of seven health boards responded to the FOI request with four enforcing closures.

The findings come after a poll last year by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) showing that the maternity system in England was neglecting expectant mothers, with 25% of women reporting that they were being left alone during labour and birth.

"Women get passed from pillar to post when having a baby"

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) chief executive Cathy Warwick commented: "Birth is unpredictable and sometimes units get a rush of births that is unavoidable and cannot be planned for.

"However, if units are regularly and persistently having to close their doors to women it suggests there is a serious underlying problem."

Elizabeth Duff, of the National Childbirth Trust, said: "This failure of maternity services can mean women get passed from pillar to post when having a baby. This is hugely disruptive to labour."

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