‘No time to check baby’s gender, we’re so stretched’

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MUMS-TO-BE are getting a raw deal because of a shortage of hospital staff in what has been described as a ‘postcode lottery’.

Hospital bosses admit parents are not being told the gender of their child during a scan because of staff shortages.

There is also a shortage of midwives at the hospital which means that expectant mothers are not receiving the right level of care.

Pat Gould, a team manager at the Royal College of Midwives said: “I know they are short of staff, although they have done a lot of recruitment in the last year.

“This is most unsatisfactory, primarily because women are not getting the quality of care and choice they deserve.

“It also impacts on midwives. We know that no matter what you’re doing, if you’re rushed you’re more likely to make mistakes.

“In terms of equity it shouldn’t be a postcode lottery as to whether you find out the sex of your baby.”

There are currently 22 empty midwife posts at Watford General Hospital, which serves Hemel Hempstead.

A spokesman for West Herts Trust, which runs the hospital, said: “A full clinical maternity scanning service is provided, including screening, diagnosis and monitoring.

“There is a national shortage of sonographers.

“Despite an active recruitment campaign and the training of additional staff, the Trust does not have the resources required to offer this service where there is no clinical basis for the request.

“The trust’s current policy is based on the availability of expert clinical resources and not religion or ethnicity.

“The trust continues to review its policy regularly.”

Full maternity services in Hemel Hempstead closed in 2002 but a low-risk birth centre opened in 2003, only to be closed in 2005 on cost and staffing grounds.

Chairman of the Dacorum Hospital Action Group Betty Harris said: “We’ve known about the staff shortages for years.

“When they closed the Hemel birthing units they did lose a number of midwives which hasn’t helped at all.”