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Support staff taking on midwifery role

Support workers shouldering midwifery care could be putting mothers and babies at risk, research shows.

Experts from King's College London, UK, carried out an independent study into the work carried out by support staff in maternity services.

Support staff trained in breastfeeding, outreach services and assisting births can allow midwives more quality time to spend with mothers and babies.

However, a number of NHS trusts have been using support staff to carry out tasks that require specialist midwifery knowledge and training.

There is currently no statutory requirement for support workers to receive training. Midwives carry the legal responsibility for work delegated to support staff.

"There is a danger that support workers could cease to become 'another pair of hands'," said lead researcher, Jane Sandall.

"Instead, they may be called upon to substitute care provided by midwives, without sufficient investment in their training or development. This is a less desirable situation which needs careful management at a local level to ensure public safety."

She suggests that a national framework should be set up to train support staff and identify any tasks thought inappropriate for a support worker to carry out.

King's College London