Tens of thousands of new mothers can’t reach a midwife, study finds

Tens of thousands of new mothers a year are seeking help at an A&E unit or GP surgery because they cannot reach a midwife to ask them for advice, a new study has found.

Mothers worried about a problem with their own or their baby’s health are adding to the strain on family doctors, emergency departments and walk-in centres because of midwife shortages and because they have “nowhere else to go”, says the parenting charity the NCT – which undertook the research.

“It’s completely unacceptable that new mums have to get themselves to already fit-to-burst A&E departments,” said Elizabeth Duff, the NCT’s senior policy adviser. “The first weeks are challenging enough for parents without the added stress of waiting around for hours in casualty with their babies.”

The NCT estimates that around 37,000 women every year in England and Wales resort to accessing these services because NHS care in the six weeks after a baby’s birth is so “patchy”.

The NCT’s findings are contained in a survey it conducted alongside the National Federation of Women’s Institutes of 2,500 women who gave birth between 2014 and mid-2016. While women were mostly positive about their experiences, postnatal care emerged as a major concern, including not seeing a midwife as often as they would like soon after their delivery.

Overall, 18% said they did not have the access they wanted to a midwife. Of those, 29% – around 37,000 of the 700,000 women a year who give birth in England and Wales – said they went to a GP, A&E or walk-in centre instead.

Full story in The Guardian, 14 February 2017