Midwife-led care is one of the key recommendations of a new report by The King's Fund, commissioned as a follow up to its previous enquiry into the safety of maternity services.

The King's Fund, a leading think tank, commissioned the report called Staffing in maternity units: getting the right people in the right place at the right time.

Although only 10% of hospital births last year were in midwife-led wards, the report recommends there should be more of this type of care for women who are not considered high-risk for having problematic births.

The report's researchers also recommended that responsibilities could be shifted between various health professionals. They argued this would save costs, without compromising the safety and quality of patient care.

They cite midwives, rather than junior doctors, being allowed to examine healthy newborn babies as a cost-saving example.

They also recommend the increased use of maternity support workers and doulas (a person, typically a woman, who provides non-medical support during labour and birth) to help midwives carry out their work.

Anna Dixon, The King's Fund director of policy, said: "Expanding midwife-led care would free up doctors to spend more time caring for higher-risk women.

"Having sufficient staffing levels is important, but there is a need to rethink how staff are deployed."

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) believes up to 4,000 extra midwives are needed to cope with the UK's rising birth rate and increased complexity of many births.

The RCM's general secretary, Cathy Warwick, responded: "It is difficult, if not impossible, to reorganise your workforce if you don't have enough of them in the first place."

Posted by Penny Hosie on 8.3.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com