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Volume 533: debated on Tuesday 18 October 2011

The Minister might know that the midwife-led unit at Salford Royal hospital is due to open in the next few weeks, and I want to put on the record my thanks to the midwives there who carry the heaviest work load in the north-west and are doing a brilliant job. She will not know, however, that last year there were 2,500 extra births in Greater Manchester that were neither expected nor planned for, that there are current vacancies for midwives at St Mary’s hospital and that mothers are being pressured to leave hospital sometimes within two or three hours of giving birth. What assurances can she give me that the same standards of safety and quality applying at Salford Royal will be available to Salford families in the future?

We need to ensure that they are, which is one of the reasons we have asked the Centre for Workforce Intelligence to undertake a pretty in-depth study of the nursing maternity work force during 2011-12. I can reassure the right hon. Lady that the current number of midwifery students entering training is at a record level—more than 2,500—and I join her in paying tribute to our midwives.

After the recent inquiry into the Furness General hospital maternity unit, will the Minister confirm that she will give full support to midwives across the Morecambe Bay trust area and that the excellent midwife-led unit at Westmorland General hospital in Kendal will be protected?

I always give my full support to midwives, but we must not forget that this is about teamwork as well. There has been an increase in the number of maternity support workers, who also play a critical role, as do the obstetricians and gynaecologists, all of whom have increased in numbers as well.