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Call for improved maternity units

A new report has found that women giving birth are being admitted to hospital units that do not have enough beds, showers or toilets.

In some hospitals, one bed can be used for more than one birth a day and women are also forced to share showers and baths, the study for the Healthcare Commission revealed.

Staffing levels in some hospitals are “well below” average, and not all staff receive adequate training. The research also found that consultants do not always spend enough time on the wards, and choice of where to give birth can be limited.

The large-scale review, of all maternity units in 150 NHS trusts in England, examined all aspects of maternity care. It found that the average trust has 3.6 delivery beds for 1,000 births each year, meaning that each bed is used for 0.7 births per day.

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However, some trusts have as few as two beds per 1,000 births per year, which means that each bed is used for 1.4 births per day. “This seems excessive and there is clearly a need to increase the capacity of delivery beds in these units,” the report’s authors said.

The report’s findings prompted Sir Ian Kennedy, the Commission’s chairman, to urge managers and commissioners “to push maternity services higher up the agenda and to make lasting improvements for women”.

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