A MIDWIVE shortage coupled with an “insufficient” number of pregnant women giving birth at Clacton and Harwich maternity units means keeping them open 24/7 cannot be justified, health experts have claimed.

A review by NHS England has insisted an “urgent” review of midwife staffing should be carried out by Colchester Hospitals Trust, which runs units at Colchester General Hospital, Clacton Hospital and Harwich’s Fryatt Hospital.

The report was commissioned by North East Essex clinical commissioning group, which is investigating whether the coastal maternity units should be staffed all day or just when mums-to-be choose to use them.

The units reopened as “on demand” centres last month following a four-month closure for births due to a shortage of staff at Colchester General Hospital.

NHS guidelines say units should have a midwife to annual birth ratio of 1:28.

The report finds that despite a recruitment drive this year including the recruitment of a consultant obstetrician, the ratio is 1:30.

Before they closed temporarily, Harwich and Clacton combined handled an average of five births a week, a level described as “insufficient” to justify a 24/7 service.

For the full story, see Tuesday's Gazette