Half of all midwives could put patients at risk due to exhaustion, research warns

Some midwives say staff shortages and stressful working conditions are resulting in increased exhaustion and lower morale

Siobhan Fenton
Thursday 02 June 2016 16:59 BST
The research has been conducted by the Royal College of Midwives who are calling for a greater focus on staff health and wellbeing
The research has been conducted by the Royal College of Midwives who are calling for a greater focus on staff health and wellbeing (PA)

Exhaustion could cause more than half of midwives to make mistakes and risk harm to patients, research has suggested.

The figure has come to light in a survey conducted by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) to ascertain working conditions for maternity staff. It found 52 per cent of staff had observed an error, near miss or other incident in the month prior to the research.

A similar number either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘I am worried about making mistakes at work because I am exhausted’.

62 per cent reported being dehydrated at work as they were unable to take breaks to drink or eat, prompting concerns they may be unable to focus on their work adequately.

Similarly, 48 per cent reported that stress was a daily occurrence for them.

The research follows concerns that cuts and staff shortages could be adversely impacting on midwives’ working conditions and maternity care for patients. The RCM has warned they “are overworked and under pressure to deliver safe, high quality care with dwindling resources.” The group are calling for NHS trusts to sign up to the Caring For You Charter which aims to improve safe guarding of staff wellbeing and health.

Suzanne Tyler, Director for Services to Members at the Royal College of Midwives said: “When staff are overworked, under intense pressure and struggling to provide the best care, their physical and mental health suffers. This has a negative impact on their ability to work to the highest levels and standards of care and safety decline.

“This campaign is not just about caring for staff; it is also about enabling them to deliver the best possible care to women, babies and their families. Supportive and open workplaces benefit both staff and service users. Research shows that when staff wellbeing is supported, employee involvement increases, motivation and performance levels increase and outcomes for women improve. Investment in staff is an investment in care for women and their families.”

The Independent has contacted the NHS for comment.

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