Midwives' vigil in Sheffield over staff shortages at maternity hospitals like Jessop Wing

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Midwife numbers in maternity wards are dangerously low, say organisers of a protest in Sheffield planned for Sunday.

Midwives will gather for a vigil at Devonshire Green, with organisers claiming maternity units are closing their doors and the safety of births in the UK is in crisis with infant and maternal deaths rising.

UK Vigil for Maternity Crisis is organised by grassroots movement March with Midwives.

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Jessop Wing crisis: 21 mums in labour diverted out of city over midwife shortage
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, The Jessop Wing.Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, The Jessop Wing.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, The Jessop Wing.

It comes months after Sheffield’s Jessop Wing maternity unit saw its rating drop from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’.

Inspection findings included a lack of effective systems to ensure staff had skills and experience to safely care for women and their babies. The CQC said there was a shortage of midwives on wards and highlighted failures to properly investigate and learn from safety incidents.

It said Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust reported five women’s deaths between October 2019 and December 2020, but only three were reported as serious incidents and investigated.

And 21 mums recently had to leave Sheffield to have their babies because of a shortage of midwives and a spate of complicated births.

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Midwife Phoebe Palloti, of Sheffield Maternity Co-operative, expects hundreds at the Sheffield vigil, calling for better conditions and staffing.

She said: “We want to raise awareness that staff levels are dangerously low, I’ve been a midwife 20 years and things have never been so bad. There are so many midwives off at present, with stress, burnout or Covid.”

Campaigners say a recent Royal College of Midwives survey found 60 per cent thinking of leaving the profession.

The vigil starts at 2pm.

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A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Midwives do an incredibly important job and we know how challenging it has been working through the pandemic. There are more midwives working across the NHS now than at any other time in its history and we are aiming to hire 1,200 more with a £95 million recruitment drive.

“Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff remains a key priority and the NHS continues to offer a broad range of health and wellbeing support including via mental health and wellbeing hubs.”

They added the Government was committed to patient safety, and making the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth.

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