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Pregnant Moms Suffer Due To Lack Of Overnight Consultants

Update Date: Oct 26, 2016 09:44 AM EDT

An audit published today by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has revealed that three in four labor wards have no consultants overnight.

The report found that just two out of 165 maternity units had a consultant present round the clock, and that almost half of hospitals lacked senior specialists at weekends. Heart of England NHS Trust in Birmingham and Central Manchester University were the only two centers with consultants available, day and night, all week.

The figures from the 165 NHS maternity units found that just over 73 percent had no consultant on the weekday overnight shifts typically 10 p.m to 8 p.m. Another 43 percent said none were on site on weekends and 89 percent said that consultants were not available for evening shifts on weekends, as per the report.

Although consultants are available on call from home, they can live up to 30 minutes away and the staff summons them only in emergencies.

Mothers-to-be are instead left in the hands of overstretched midwives and often inexperienced and over exhausted junior doctors. Research has shown that babies born out of hours, are a third more likely to die or suffer serious complications.

Maureen Treadwell of the British Trauma Association responded by saying, " We are concerned at the number of hospital trusts with no consultant cover at night. There are a number of rare but sudden catastrophic events in labor where a less experienced doctor may need the advice or assistance of a senior colleague. These are not common events, but every year some women and babies will die as a result of substandard care, often from staff who are doing their best, but may have never dealt with such a condition."

Experts say the figures are worrying because labors are becoming more complex owing to the fact that more women are becoming obese and the trend for women to have babies later in life. In such a situation, midwives and junior doctors are less likely to spot when things go wrong and can be reluctant to call the consultants.for their expertise and help. 

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