Nearly 40,000 new parents go to their GP or A&E every year because of a lack of access to midwives, it has been estimated.
The report is based on a survey of 2,500 women who gave birth in England or Wales in 2014, 2015, and the first half of 2016, carried out by parenting charity NCT and The Women’s Institute.
- 37,000 women a year go to their GP or A&E services in the six weeks after birth because they are unable to see a midwife.
- About one in five (18%) new mothers reported being unable to see a midwife as often as they needed in the six weeks after they gave birth.
- Almost a third (31%) of those women said this resulted in a delay in them or their baby’s health problem being diagnosed or treated.
- Nearly three in 10 mothers (29%) said they were forced to seek help from their GP, a walk-in centre, or A&E as a result of the lack of midwife appointments.
- Their main concerns were their baby not feeding properly (64%), their own emotional or mental wellbeing (50%), the healing of stitches or sutures (35%) and the healing of caesarean scars (18%).
The report concluded that the lack of midwifery services is putting added pressure on overburdened GP surgeries.
Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at NCT, said: ‘It’s completely unacceptable that new mums have to get themselves to already fit-to-burst A&E departments.
‘The first weeks are challenging enough for parents without the added stress of waiting around for hours in casualty with their babies.
‘If the NHS provided better postnatal support, new parents would not be adding to the pressure on overburdened A&E departments and GP surgeries.
‘When we look at NHS budgets around 8% is allocated to postnatal care yet 80% of maternal deaths happen at this time. We do feel there is a mis-match.’
The NCT report called for the implementation of the NICE guidance that women should see a midwife as often as they require postnatally, and said that local commissioners should agree on the acceptable average number of postnatal visits appropriate to each population. It also called for the Government to drop plans to scrap bursaries for those in training.
NHS England said that the number of midwives has been steadily increasing over the last five years and is expected to continue as more are trained.
A spokesperson said: ‘It is safer than ever to give birth in this country and the vast majority of mothers report they received great NHS care.’