No, I’m not talking about my hair, I am actually going to talk about the maternity services.
I cannot accurately comment about staffing issues in SCBU’s, all I can say is that the drug error involving Louis has been blamed on the unit being busy, in other words, not enough staff.
I can comment about staffing issues concerning midwives within maternity units. I have commented at length on this both on this blog and in my previous blog and it always comes down to the same thing, lack of monies. Everyone talks about a shortage of midwives, at this time there is not a shortage of qualified, work available midwives but there is a shortage of midwifery posts. Trusts have been forced to make savings to stay within their budgets and one of the ways they have made savings is to freeze vacancies, don’t advertise a post until it is vacant, downgrade midwives and halt the use of ‘bank’ staff to cover shortages. I know that the maternity units I am employed by called in Birthrate plus to assess the number of midwives required to cover the service, I went to the presentation of their results where we were told that we required another 23 midwives to adequately staff the service. This was 5 years ago and since then there have been 1.5 posts created. The Trust do not want to spend their money on more midwives. Come to that they don’t want to spend their money on more nurses either. So, we have insufficient funding to provide appropriate staffing levels.
Tell someone you are a midwife and the vast majority will say that it must be the most amazing, rewarding job, and it can be but it is also a stressful job. As a midwife you must never lose sight of the fact that you have two lives in your hands, an oversight can result in a double tragedy. Oversights, mistakes happen when a person is not concentrating, when they are distracted, when they cannot give their full attention to the task at hand. This is what many midwives in overstretched maternity units face every day. Where labour ward is busy, perhaps 9 women and never more than 5 midwives to care for them. An emergency in one room can take 2 midwives away for an hour if a caesarian section is needed. There are still 8 women on labour ward but now there are only 3 midwives. Rare you might think. No this is an everyday, several times a day occurrence. If you were one of those 3 remaining midwives can you imagine the amount of stress they have placed under? Would you function at an optimal level? If anyone wants to know one of the major reasons midwives leave the profession you have just read it and as Frances Day-Stirk of the RCM said, regarding staffing, “Unless the issues that are causing midwives to leave the service are addressed and unless we ensure we train and educate sufficient numbers of midwives to come into the service, this will be a perennial issue.” It is a vicious circle, there are not enough midwives to safely cover a unit, the midwives who are there become stressed (not really a strong enough description), so they either end up off-sick, leaving the unit with less staff, or leave, also leaving the unit with less staff because the vacancy will not be filled for 3 – 6 months, so the remaining midwives become even more stressed. It’s hardly rocket science.