Perth midwife unit was forced to shut overnight when staff were called away to Dundee

By Melanie Bonn

Perth Royal Infirmary’s community midwife unit had to close on four occasions in August because maternity staff were drafted away to work in Dundee.

The birthing unit at PRI did not have sufficient personnel to be safely operated and expectant mothers were diverted to Ninewells on these occasions, adding considerable distance for the Perthshire mums in labour.

NHS Tayside confirmed that midwives were pulled to cover shifts in Dundee, but moved to reassure residents that no-one had been put at risk.

An NHS spokesperson said: “For patient safety reasons, on four occasions last month, the decision was made to put in place an interim overnight divert for patients from the community midwifery unit at Perth Royal Infirmary to the maternity unit at Ninewells Hospital.

“The safe and effective care for women and babies is always our priority across NHS Tayside maternity services.

“To ensure patient safety and maintain appropriate staffing levels, some midwives from across Tayside are at times asked to work at the maternity unit in Ninewells Hospital.

“Midwives across Tayside work an on-call overnight shift once per week, which they are rostered on to in advance.

“These on-call shifts are included within a staff member’s rostered weekly hours and there is a break between shifts.

“Staff are not rostered on for more than 12 hours per shift.

“Within the past month this has been requested on a small number of occasions. This was due to a number of reasons, including an increase in the number of births on the day and staff short-term sickness absence in both the Dundee and Perth and Kinross areas.

“The decision to move staff temporarily was taken as part of our established escalation policy to ensure a safe maternity service for all women in Tayside.

“All staff who are asked to work in a different area are supported by their line manager and any individual concerns can be discussed with them directly.”

The health board has also denied there has been an increase in sickness and staff turnover leading to staffing pressures, but revealed there had been an increase in maternity leave among staff.

The spokesperson said: “NHS Tayside’s maternity service has not experienced a general increase in sickness absence, retirement or staff leaving for new posts.

“There has been a recent increase in the number of staff members on maternity leave, which has been addressed with the upcoming recruitment of approximately 20 midwives across Tayside. There is also an active recruitment plan for maternity services.”

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