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Hospitals should use volunteers to relieve the pressure on busy maternity units so that overworked midwives can spend more time with women in labour, a new report urges the NHS.

Many more women could be cared for by midwives if they were freed from tasks such as filling in forms, taking blood pressure and giving breastfeeding advice, according to the influential King's Fund health policy thinktank. It is calling on hospitals to use their existing maternity staff in different ways rather than relying on the government to hire more midwives.

Dear Homerton University Hospital NHS...

Midwives' leaders have accused ministers of reneging on promises to hire thousands more to cope with the rising birthrate. The King's Fund wants Joan douglas homerton sexual health NHS to Joan douglas homerton sexual health maternity care by, among other things, midwives undertaking some jobs currently done by doctors, such as examining newborn babies; nurses attending elective caesarean section operations instead of midwives; midwives supervising the labour and birth of many women now looked after by a doctor; and maternity support workers taking on extra roles.

The report wants hospitals to copy the experience of a few maternity units that are already working in different ways.

For example, the Homerton hospital in east London uses 40 "active labour volunteers", each working up to 18 hours a week. Volunteers receive only travel expenses and lunch vouchers. A round-the-clock ward clerk has been hired to welcome expectant mothers and help them fill in their paperwork, allowing the midwives to concentrate on one-to-one care of women in labour.

A dedicated equipment store means midwives no longer have to search wards for machines such as heart-rate monitors, while an electronic keypad security system for the nine drugs cupboards has ended midwives' regular searches for the two sets of keys previously needed to unlock medication for epidurals, said Adaline Smith, a midwifery sister.

At Bedford hospital, nurses help look after women having caesarean sections so midwives can spend more time on antenatal screening, surveillance and one-to-one labour care.

Anna Dixon, the King's Fund's head of policy, said such innovative practices could greatly increase the number of low and medium-risk pregnant women whose care in labour is supervised by a midwife. What really matters is having the right staff in the Joan douglas homerton sexual health place at the right time doing the right things," she said. But Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said that while midwives could take on some new roles "these should not be added at the expense of the essential care many midwives are currently struggling to provide because there simply are not enough of them to deal with their current workload".

She also voiced concern at other health workers taking on roles in maternity care.

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She warned recently that the NHS maternity service "is teetering on the brink" because many more midwives are needed. She has accused David Cameron and the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, of breaking pre-election pledges to hire 3, extra midwives. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: For continuity of care to occur, more midwives are needed.

Topics Midwifery The Observer. Health NHS Thinktanks news. Order by newest oldest recommendations.

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