Dr Suzanne Tyler, the RCM's executive director, says many of the buildings that house maternity services are not fit for purpose.
"We know of crumbling walls, ceilings being held up by props and even sewage flowing onto wards. We need to see proper investment in maternity services, including the bricks and mortar."
According to the NHS maternity survey for 2022, 76 per cent of women used gas and air during labour, which makes it concerning to read that so many women are being denied basic pain relief during labour due to fears that midwives and doctors have been exposed to unsafe levels.
The hospitals that have temporarily suspended its use are:
- Peterborough City Hospital and Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Huntingdon
- The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn
- Basildon University Hospital in Essex
- Watford General Hospital
- The William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent
What is equally concerning, is the failure of the hospitals to alert expectant mothers to the fact that gas and air during labour will not be available and that instead their options are pethidine or an epidural. Many women are likely unaware about this until they arrive at hospital, or only because they have read about it on social media.
In new guidance to trusts last week, NHS England said hospitals should only suspend gas and air as "a last resort".
"Where there is no other option but to remove this provision, there must be clear communication with all service users who may be affected, with alternative options explained to support informed patient choice," it said.
Labour is a personal experience for women and many meticulously plan their birth, in which I suspect gas & air features in the vast majority. One can imagine their response when they are told seemingly at the last minute that it is not available.
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