The NHS is facing a shortage of midwives as thousands skilled maternity staff are redeployed to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Data collected by The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) found the 10% vacancy rate in NHS midwifery posts before the crisis had doubled to 20%.
According to The Observer, more than a fifth, 22%, of those surveyed also reported that local midwife-led maternity units had closed.
Gill Walton, chief executive of the RCM, said: “While other areas of the health service can postpone and cancel procedures, there is still an ongoing need for maternity services.
“Women are still pregnant, still having babies, and they need the care and support of properly resourced maternity services.
“We have to ensure that midwives and maternity support workers are ringfenced from any redeployment to ensure that women continue to receive safe care.”
The RCM said Covid-19 and self-isolation had “combined with existing staff vacancies to mean one in five midwife roles are currently unstaffed today”.
While other areas of the NHS can postpone or cancel procedures, women will continue to go through pregnancy and childbirth and will need midwives and support staff, the college said.
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Ms Walton said: “What this survey shows is that coronavirus is exposing the gaps that already exist in maternity services.
“The shortage of midwives has doubled since the start of the outbreak, a situation which is only likely to worsen as the pandemic spreads further.”
According to The Sunday Times, there are about 700,000 births a year and 200,000 abortions, suggesting that 234,000 women could be affected in the next 13 weeks.
The British Pregnancy Advice Service, the largest provider of NHS abortions, said it had closed 20 clinics and cancelled 1,120 appointments due last week.