'Shocking' survey suggest one in four new mothers abandoned during labour

Women surveyed said they were not able to access pain relief quickly and that doses of painkillers were not big enough

Health Reporter

England’s midwife shortage has led to women being left alone for long spells during their labour, it was claimed today, as a survey uncovered growing concerns over the state of NHS maternity services.

One in four new mothers said they had been left alone at a time that worried them during their labour – described by the nursing and midwifery leaders as yet more evidence that too few midwifes were supervising hospital wards.

The findings came from the health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC), following their 2013 maternity survey, the first in three years.

While there was a slight increase in the number of women who said they had confidence in care staff, up to 78 per cent, there was an increase in reports of being left alone as well as other worrying indications, including one in 10 women reporting that toilets on maternity wards were unclean.

More than 23,000 women who had a baby in February this year responded to the survey. In 2010, 22 per cent of women reported being left alone, a figure which has risen to 25 per cent this year.

The chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said that some of the experiences described by respondents were “truly shocking”.

“I’m encouraged there are improvements but in too many cases, the quality of care delivered is just not good enough…” he said. “Feedback in the comments shows at times a truly shocking picture of experiences that should be the most joyous time in a woman’s life, not the most frightening.”

Around 10,000 women chose to comment personally on their care. Many said they were not able to access pain relief quickly and that doses of painkillers were not big enough.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), attributed the problems to midwife shortages. The College estimates that the NHS in England needs 4,800 more midwives to meet demand. Birth rates reached 40-year highs in 2012, with 700,000 being born. Despite a slight drop in the birth rate this year, midwives have warned the government against complacency.

The RCM had previously warned that the safety of women and new born babies was being put at risk by shortages.

“[This] survey shows that the NHS continues to fail too many women. It sets out yet more evidence of the real-life and disheartening effects on women of the shortage of midwives,” she said. “How many more flashing red lights do we need?”

Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, agreed that staffing problems were the likely cause of patients being left unattended.

“It is promising to see improvements in a number of areas such as keeping women involved in decisions about their care and having trust in the staff providing their care, which is so important,” he said.

“However these results make it clear that there are still challenges to be met in maternity services, and it is particularly concerning that more women were left alone at a time that worried them during their birth than in 2010…” he said. “This is something which much be looked at urgently.”

Health minister Dan Poulter said that “a record 5,000” more midwives were currently in training and set to qualify in the next three years. 

But shadow public health minister Luciana Berger said that the David Cameron was “failing to deliver” on election promises that thousands more midwives would be appointed

“Ministers must explain why women feel that their concerns weren't taken seriously and a growing number were left alone during labour,” she said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

    Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us