Maternity wards in England were forced to close their doors 382 times in 2016, according to new figures that have triggered claims of women being “pushed from pillar to post in the throes of labour”.
Campaigners warned that expectant mothers could be left in fear of giving birth at the roadside after a wide-reaching freedom of information request found a 70% increase in the number of maternity ward closures over two years.
Research by the Labour party found that 42 hospital trusts had been forced to shut their doors at some point over the last year – 44% of those who responded – with many blaming staff shortages and bed and cot capacity.
Fourteen of them admitted they had shut down more than 10 times, with some taking more than 24 hours to reopen.
In total, there were 382 occasions when units had to close in 2016. This figure is slightly higher than the 375 occasions from the year before, and an almost 70% increase on the 225 in 2014.
The findings triggered an immediate response from campaign groups, who pointed to the government’s own maternity policy, which says there should be enough midwives to prevent this happening.
Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said: “It’s appalling that a shortage of midwives and equipment means that so many units have been closed time and again so that pregnant women are pushed from pillar to post in the throes of labour.”
Article from the Guardian, 8 August 2017