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Maternity units are more likely to close their doors to women in labour at the weekend when there are fewer staff.
An investigation has found that the chances of a department shutting on a Saturday are 59 per cent higher than on a Wednesday.
Cent - Closures - Problems - Unit
It also showed that at least 30 per cent of closures were due to staffing problems, rather than the unit being very busy.
Maternity units are increasingly closing their doors, temporarily, when they are either very busy or understaffed.
Women - Birth - Hospitals - Experience - Labour
Women who had planned to give birth are diverted to other hospitals nearby, which can be a distressing experience during labour.
But an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank has found there are typically more closures on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, when fewer staff are on duty.
Figures - Freedom - Information - Requests - Average
Figures obtained from Freedom of Information requests show there were an average of 65 closures per 100,000 admissions on a Saturday between 2011 and 2015.
This compares with 41 per 100,000 on Wednesdays over the same period. Units were more likely to close in December – when staff were off for Christmas – compared to other months of the year.
Month - Closures - September - Babies - December
But the worst month for closures was September when more babies are born, having been conceived during December and January.
Elaine Kelly, a senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and an author of the study said: 'NHS maternity units are more likely to close towards the end of the week and during holiday periods, pointing to staff availability as a key problem.
Closures - Way - Pressures
'Such closures may be the most cost-efficient way of dealing with pressures...
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