‘I know just how vital midwives can be...’

Sophie Bishop with her daughters (left) Tabitha and Nancy.

Picture: Sarah Standing
Sophie Bishop with her daughters (left) Tabitha and Nancy. Picture: Sarah Standing

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A MOTHER who gave birth to her daughter prematurely has spoken of her concerns about a national shortage of midwives.

Sophie Bishop, 30, had her daughter Tabitha just 23 weeks into her pregnancy - and had feared her daughter would die.

At the time, she was one of the youngest infants to be born at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.

But now as figures show there is a national shortage of 3,500 midwives and many in post are approaching retirement, Sophie has told of her concern about stretched staffing.

It comes as analysis by The News and its sister titles found around 12 maternity and neonatal units across England may be facing closure or consolidation.

The proposals were in 44 regional Sustainability and Transformation Plans, drawn up to help tackle an estimated £22bn funding shortfall for the NHS by 2020/2021, including £577m in Hampshire.

Health chiefs in Hampshire have not proposed closing any units and plan to adopt a national scheme, called Better Birth.

Sophie, whose baby Tabitha weighed just 15oz, said: ‘Having a baby is the most scary thing you’re going to do.

‘Your future baby’s care is with these midwives.

‘With a shortage of them they’re not going to have as much time to spend with you and your baby won’t have the care that it should or expect it to have.’

She spent 17 weeks at the neonatal intensive care unit at QA Hospital after giving birth to Tabitha in 2010.

Sophie, of Winnham Drive, Portchester, has since had a second daughter, Nancy, four, whose birth was not premature.

Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Havant are Maternity Choice and Personalisation Pioneers, meaning they are adopting a new national NHS scheme that aims to offer ‘personalised maternity care tailored to women’s needs and preferences’.

Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond recently met the Royal College of Midwives, which is warning of a shortfall in staffing.

Mrs Drummond said: ‘Everyone who has had a child knows how much they relied on their midwife, and midwives’ expertise will only be more important as women have children later in life.

‘Although training figures are healthy, and we need to make sure that as many students as possible move into the profession to benefit from the expertise of older midwives before they retire.

‘I will be asking the secretary of state for health how we can help the midwifery profession meet the challenges the increasing population and changing profile of mothers present and continue to recruit and retain such important skills.’

She added: ‘The needs of women are changing as we lead increasingly busy lives during pregnancy. More women are having children, especially first children, at an older age.

‘That can sometimes lead to complications or questions where a well-trained midwife is so valuable. It is a specialised and senior role and I hope more people will consider it as a very rewarding career in our NHS.’

An NHS England spokesman said the number of midwives has been steadily increasing over the last five years and it is now safer than ever to give birth.