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TWO birth services suspended by Swansea Bay University Health Board due to staffing pressures could be reinstated.

A temporary halt was called on the home birth service and birth centre service at Neath Port Talbot Hospital in order to focus resources in Swansea’s Singleton Hospital.

Midwifery staffing levels have been described as “critical” in a report going before the health board on November 25.

It said Covid-related sickness, Covid shielding and other absences were to blame.

The report said further reductions in staff numbers could result in “unsafe service provision” and poor patient outcomes.

Work has been going on behind the scenes to address the issue.

Interventions include the appointment of seven experienced midwives, the use of agency staff as needed, and enhanced overtime.

Training has also been suspended and all available midwives mobilised.

The health board’s head of midwifery is attending weekly meetings with a Wales maternity and neonatal network, which are attended by Welsh Government and union representatives, among others.

Health board chief executive Mark Hackett said midwifery shortages were being experienced in other obstetrics units in Wales.

The issue has been added to the health board’s risk register in the highest risk category.

It is hoped the measures will reduce the risk to the category below by the end of December.

Separately, the health board announced last Thursday that it was reinstating early face-to-face contact with community midwives. This was suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, with a maternity services helpline set up instead. The helpline was closed on November 19.

It also said the safe re-establishment of its home birth service and the birth centre at Neath Port Talbot Hospital remained central to its recovery plan.

“We are now starting to see some stabilisation of our staffing situation and have plans in place to re-establish all our services in the near future,” said a statement on its website.

The Royal College of Midwives union said maternity services at Swansea Bay have faced major midwife staffing challenges because Covid-19 .

Its director for Wales, Helen Rogers, said: “Midwives and maternity support workers have been working tirelessly to deliver care to women and their babies, but are understandably exhausted.

“Understaffing is beginning to ease as all newly qualified midwives who wanted to work in this health board are now in full time posts.”

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