THOUSANDS of new mothers are being discharged from hospitals in the middle of the night as a shortage of midwives leaves maternity care at “make or break point”, a Sunday Times investigation reveals.
Almost 33,000 women were sent home after giving birth between 11pm and 6am in the past three years, despite experts warning that discharging exhausted new mothers in the early hours puts them at risk.
Patients’ groups branded the figures “unacceptable”, and maternity workers urged the government to pump money into a service struggling to cope.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Being discharged in the middle of night is not appropriate under any circumstances, more so when women are feeling vulnerable after going through an exhausting delivery. This is unacceptable and put patients at risk.”
Figures obtained under freedom of information rules reveal that 12,335 new mothers were discharged between 11pm and 6am during 2013 — the equivalent of 34 women every night.
The data, revealed in responses from 81 of the 167 NHS health trusts in England and Wales, show a worsening situation, with the number of late-night discharges rising from 10,696 mothers in 2012 and 9,801 in 2011.
Mandi Riley, 26, was discharged from Liverpool Women’s Hospital late at night following difficulties during the birth of her daughter Jessica. She claimed she was left in tears after having to make her way home after 11pm on a cold, snowy night in 2009.