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Fears over a lack of midwives; Birthrate has rocketed.

Byline: HELEN RAE

BRITAIN'S soaring birthrate is leaving a shortfall of midwives in the North East, a new report claims.

A 9% increase in the number of midwives is required to keep up with the baby boom, according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

The message comes on the back of recent figures which illustrated how the region's birthrate has rocketed over the last decade - while the number of midwives has not kept pace.

The North East has one of the lowest shortfalls in the country as only 91 extra midwives are needed, whereas the South East requires an additional 1,015 to ensure mothers and babies at not put at risk.

However, a medium-sized maternity unit delivering 3,000 babies a year would need around 91 midwives, according to the RCM, so the region's shortfall is significant.

Midwife graduate Victoria Graham, 24, of Longbenton, Newcastle, said: "I think the findings need to be taken cautiously as I personally have not experienced that there is any shortage of midwives in the region.

"However, it is recognised that the Government could do with investing more so that there is the funding available for midwives."

Midwife shortages have a significant impact on the quality of care and the choices available to women, the report suggests. It means a women wanting and expecting a home birth can be denied one. It also threatens midwife-led units.

Val Larkin, acting programme manager and principle lecturer in midwifery at Northumbria University, said: "I welcome anything that promotes the profession and puts midwifes in the spotlight. However, I would not want any local woman to be alarmed. Midwives in the region, including the students here at Northumbria University, are of a very high quality and do their upmost to provide the best care possible."

The RCM report said 4,700 more midwives were needed across England to keep up with added pressures, such as growing numbers of obese and older pregnant women.

Jeanne Tarrant, RCM regional manager for the North East, said: "Whilst it is one of the better staffed regions, there is no doubt that more midwives are needed.

"More investment is needed, action is needed, and it is needed now. Without this I have real fears that maternity services in the North East will be struggling to cope with the demands on them."

The number of midwives has increased nationally by 17.7% from 2000 to 2010, according to the Department of Health. A DoH spokeswoman said: "Record numbers of midwives entered training last year and there are 2,490 planned midwifery training places this year."

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REPORT A shortage of midwives can affect the quality of care CAUTION Midwife VIctoria Graham
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 16, 2011
Words:449
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