Pregnant women could be denied the care they need if Covid cases continue to surge, Britain’s top gynecologist has warned.
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Edward Morris warned that maternity staff are facing ‘immense pressure’.
He argued the pandemic was ‘far from over’ and said maternity wards could soon be unable to ‘deliver the care’ needed, if infections continue to rise.
Dr Morris’s warnings come after Covid hospitalisations have breached 1,000 for the first time in six weeks.
But cases yesterday were down on the week before, in a ray of hope that the worst of the current outbreak may have passed.
Maternity wards could become once again overwhelmed with Covid pressures if cases continue to rise , leaving women and girls denied the care they need. Britain’s top gynecologist has warned
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Edward Morris warned that maternity staff are facing ‘immense pressure’
The Government has insisted it is not the tight time to resort to the ‘Plan B’ winter strategy, with the figures ‘fully in line’ with what was expected.
‘Plan B’ would see measures such as face masks indoors, Covid passports, and WFH reintroduced.
Health bosses have already called on the Government to enact ‘Plan B’ measures, with fears the NHS is heading for a winter crisis, with both Covid and flu in circulation and a record high back-log of cancelled operations to catch-up on.
Now Dr Morris has become the latest high profile voice to raise the alarm about the impact of rising Covid cases.
He told the Guardian that the college was concerned about situation maternity staff could face this winter.
‘The Covid pandemic is far from over and we’re becoming increasingly concerned about the immense pressures facing our maternity staff this winter if the situation continues as it is,’ he said.
‘We’re also aware of the many women and girls who are suffering with gynaecological conditions that are currently on extensive waiting lists with no end in sight.
‘With the number of Covid cases rising once more, the NHS could soon be in a situation where it is unable to deliver the care it needs to or deal with the huge backlog that has already built up.’
More than 1.5million NHS operations were cancelled or delayed in England in 2020, with this expected to balloon to over 2million by the end of this year, according to a report published in July.
Dr Morris said that maternity staff, who were redeployed to help other parts of the NHS during the first Covid wave, must be allowed to continue their specialist work this winter.
‘We know during the first wave of the pandemic, maternity staff were redeployed to different areas of the hospital,’ he added.
‘We would urge NHS trusts and boards to avoid this at all costs.’
It comes as a record 325,000 people got their booster jab in a single day, while more than 800,000 people over three days had a third jab as queues again formed at centres across the country
Virus left me in a coma for month
Unjabbed mother-to-be Claire Bromley, 33, spent almost a month in hospital with Covid and said the risk ‘far outweighs any doubts’ about the vaccine.
She was admitted to hospital in Kent with breathing difficulties a few days after testing positive and was put on a ventilator in a medically induced coma.
Medics feared she might need an emergency C-section at just 26 weeks. But her condition improved and her pregnancy is proceeding normally.
She said: ‘I can honestly say the risk of not having the vaccine far outweighs any doubts about having it.’
Claire Bromley, 33, from Kent, in hospital after she contracted coronavirus while pregnant
In addition to Dr Morris, other NHS heads have urged the Government to enact ‘Plan B’ restrictions now to avoid putting NHS care in jeopardy later.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, of the British Medical Association, said the refusal to implement Plan B measures amounted to ‘wilful negligence’.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health trusts, said it was ‘better to act now, rather than regret it later’.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is currently urging pregnant women to get the Covid and flu vaccines to help protect themselves and their babies this winter.
Flu can be very serious for a small number of pregnant women and their babies, occasionally leading to stillbirth, maternal death and miscarriage.
The colleges warn it is possible to be infected with flu and Covid at the same time and this could make pregnant women seriously ill.
Despite claims by antivaxxers, data show there has been no subsequent damage to mothers or children from the vaccines.
NHS England said 17 per cent of Covid patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were unvaccinated expectant mothers.
Data also showed pregnant women accounted for 32 per cent of all women aged between 16 and 49 in ICU on the machine used when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by Covid that ventilators do not work.
NHS England said this figure has risen from six per cent at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
Even without full winter Covid pressures, maternity units in England were rocked by claims that staff-on-staff bullying was putting babies’ health at risk.
A report from the health-watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC), published last month found that four in ten maternity units are failing to meet basic safety standards.
The CQC warned that a ‘culture of bullying’ was creating a hostile working environment in some hospitals, with 41 per cent of maternity services rated as either inadequate or requiring improvement.
The report based on nine inspections of hospitals from March to June, highlighted a culture of ‘cover-ups when things went wrong’.
It found that pregnant women are still being let down by the NHS despite pressure to reform following a series of high-profile scandals, including at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals.