Pregnant women are waiting up to five days to be induced because of maternity staffing shortages, a report reveals.
Inspectors and managers have identified issues at ten hospitals amid concerns the delays are putting women and their babies at risk.
Seven have been issued with warnings by the Care Quality Commission since last year and three have reported problems in board papers.
In some cases, women who were classed as ‘high risk’ were made to wait up to five days for an induction – the inducing of labour by artificial means.
The procedure is encouraged if babies are overdue, or if there are risks to mother and baby because of conditions such as high blood pressure, or because the baby is not growing.
Pregnant women are waiting up to five days to be induced because of maternity staffing shortages, a report has revealed (stock image)
In other cases, women were forced to wait more than 48 hours to be transferred to the delivery suite after the process had been started.
The CQC, the care regulator, said earlier this month that more than 1,300 ‘red flags’ were raised in a five-month period at University Hospitals of Leicester Trust due to delays in the induction of labour, linked to staffing levels.
Carolyn Jenkinson, deputy director of secondary and specialist healthcare at the CQC, told the Health Service Journal: ‘At some maternity services we’ve found women having to wait long periods of time to be induced or for transfer to a labour ward once the induction process has started, and in some cases a lack of effective monitoring during periods of delay.
‘Where we have found concerns about delayed treatment – including induction of labour – we have made clear to those trusts that effective oversight of the issue is vital and that all action possible should be taken to mitigate any risk and keep people using the service safe.’
In June, the CQC found eight high-risk women at Blackpool Victoria Hospital were waiting up to five days for induction amid severe shortages of midwives.
And after an April inspection, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust was told it must ensure there was a clear protocol for identifying women for priority induction, with a sixth of inductions being delayed, largely due to staffing.
Inspectors and managers have identified issues at ten hospitals amid concerns the delays are putting women and their babies at risk (stock image)
The percentage of births nationally which are induced has risen from 22 per cent in 2011/12 to 33 per cent in 2021/22, according to NHS Digital.
Birte Harlev-Lam, executive director midwife at the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘Safety is paramount, so midwives should only induce labour when there is a midwife available to support the woman and a bed on the labour ward.
‘Inevitably, with the well-known staffing and resource issues in maternity services, there may sometimes be a delay, which is why effective monitoring by midwives is so important.’
The Leicester trust said it had set its own ‘red flag’bar locally, so all the delays did not represent a national alert and the Morecambe Bay trust said any delays in induction of more than four hours are reviewed by a senior clinician.