Medical Negligence- Midwife Shortage

UK hospitals are facing allegations of medical negligence because of severe under staffing.


Reports are surfacing throughout the United Kingdom that hospital bosses are failing to review their staffing needs, which in turn can lead to medical negligence cases involving some of the most vulnerable patients: pregnant mothers and newborn children. BBC Radio’s show, “Woman’s Hour” recently discovered through investigation that more than 25 per cent of trusts under the National Health Service (NHS) have failed to review their staffing needs for a period of more than four years, and in some cases, reviews have not been performed in an even longer span of time.

Recently, reports and comment from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) indicated that staff shortages were occurring with understood negligence. These comments pointed to the fact that the senior staff were purposely not reviewing the need for additional staff or staff changes because there are not enough funds in the budget in order to hire additional staff or make changes that would solve the problem. Any reporting and reviewing done would go on record and the hospital could be deemed criminally negligent for not taking action when senior staff knew there was a need for additional staff. But by avoiding a review, there is no proof that there is a staff shortage.

More than 80 per cent of the current 99 National Health Service trusts are currently short on staffing for midwives. This number is particularly alarming as the number of births on record in the United Kingdom is at its highest since the early 1970s. According to these same reports four out of five of the trusts on record has reported having at least one vacancy for a midwife on their staff, if not more, and in disturbing patterns, the number is quite often more than one vacancy.

Lack of proper staffing resources can cause significant trouble for hospitals and for the patients who rely on nurses and midwives to provide them with proper care and support. In total, including those cases involving pregnant and birthing mothers, and infant children, more than 16,000 lawsuits were filed against the National Health Service in the 2012/2013 fiscal year. Other reports indicate that more than 20 per cent of the cerebral palsy cases involving newborns in the UK each year are the result of some form of medical negligence. This could be related to the lack of staffing and other much needed resources.

Reports show that staff in the 99 trusts are at their limits and that these staff members and midwives cannot do any more than they are already doing. Ever-decreasing budgets, however, are putting additional strain on midwives. And this in turn means less attention for birthing mothers and infant children who have just been born. Patient safety in birthing situations relies heavily on the care provided by skilled midwife staff members. Midwives, according to reports, are being asked to make up for the inefficiencies of the medical system, but will not be able to do so for much longer.

Sadly, unless the government take drastic actions, the staffing issues will not get better any time soon. Do not suffer in silence if you have been a victim of medical negligence. You are entitled to compensation.