According to the survey by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, about ¾ maternity wards operate without consultants working night shifts. About half hospitals have no consultants available during weekends.
Moreover, according to the reports, only 2 out of 165 wards that took part in the survey had a consultant on site that would be available 24 hours a day. The good news is that they are usually available on call.
The Royal College reports that about 73% of those wards had no specialists who would consult pregnant women during the night shift (from 10pm to 8am) on site. Almost all the institutions don’t have consultants at weekends and evenings. The exceptions are the Heart of England NHS trust’s and Central Manchester University’s wards.
According to the study, a great part of births happens out of hours, and despite the fact there’s always junior staff available, some cases are troublesome and require senior supervision.
Some studies have drawn a link between a lack of consultants and higher mortality rates, but a study last year found that there was no evidence to show that having consultants on site for 24 hours improved safety. In 2009 the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists urged maternity units to work towards having consultants on site round the clock.
The health service will publish ratings for maternity care tomorrow. Trusts will be given a grade from outstanding to inadequate, based on safety records and women’s experiences.