Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's a Numbers Game

In which things aren't adding up for the mothers and children relying on Britain's National Health Service:

A leaked report at the weekend revealed that claims for medical negligence related to NHS childbirth stand at a staggering £4.5?billion, of which £3.3?billion relates to children who developed cerebral palsy as a result of oxygen starvation at birth.

...a report by researchers at Salford University found that 70 per cent of the incidents they studied, in which babies were starved of oxygen at birth, were linked to staff shortages.

Later this week, Professor Jason Gardosi, director of the Perinatal Institute in Birmingham, will present the results of a 10-year study showing that poor training among overworked doctors and midwives leads to 1,000 stillbirths a year.

....This is a point driven home by Prof Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, incoming president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who says the numbers of consultants and midwives at up to half of Britain's hospitals "aren't adequate", endangering the lives of expectant mothers and babies.

The Royal College of Midwives has been banging the staffing drum for years. In 2005, when I was making The Truth about Childbirth, a Channel 4 documentary, I was told that 2,000 extra midwives were needed merely to provide adequate cover, while an extra 10,000 were required to provide the sort of proper, gold-standard care that new mothers deserve.

Now, just under three years later, the RCM says that a booming birthrate means that a further 5,000 midwives are urgently needed in the system by 2012 – again, that's just to provide adequate care.

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