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Maternity units should offer midwife-led care as the norm rather than the exception, says a health think tank.
The King's Fund report notes that last year only 10% of hospital births in England were in midwife-led wards.
... The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said an extra 4,000 midwives were needed before a change in care patterns could be implemented.
The researchers looked at studies from the UK and other countries to find out how maternity services could be made safer - without any increase in resources.
They recommend midwife-led care be used much more widely for women who are not at a high risk of having problematic births.
One UK study suggested that £2.5m could be saved by getting midwives ... to examine healthy newborn babies.
... The King's Fund's director of policy, Anna Dixon, said: "Expanding midwife-led care would free up doctors to spend more time caring for higher-risk women.
The Royal College of Midwives believes up to 4,000 extra midwives are needed to keep pace with the UK's rising birth rate and the increased complexity of many births.
... The NHS is under pressure to save up to £20bn over the next four years by finding more efficient ways of working.
The parenting charity NCT (National Childbirth Trust) said it was delighted about the recommendation for more midwife-led care.
... "The Government is committed to giving people more control over their own care. We want mothers-to-be to be able to have a normal birth wherever possible.
"There should be real choice over where to give birth, supported by accessible midwife-led care ...
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