Shift length and working practices in UK hospital settings: an online survey of Heads of Midwifery
Objective: There is currently a lack of data that records how midwives are expected to work in hospital settings. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of 12-hour shifts and current working practices of hospital-based midwives. Design: An online survey conducted between December 2018 and March 2019. Descriptive data are summarised regionally and nationally. Setting: NHS Trusts providing maternity services in hospital settings in the UK Participants: The link to the survey was emailed to Heads of Midwifery in 155 NHS Trusts Findings: Responses were received from 94 of the 155 NHS Trusts (60.65%). Some responses included data for more than one hospital, so results are summarised for 97 hospitals. 12-hour shifts were the most prevalent shift length, with only 4.1% of hospitals still routinely operating shorter shifts. 55% of hospitals limit the maximum number of consecutive shifts to three, but this can be influenced by different factors. More than half of midwives (55.67%) will be rostered to start a day shift within 24-hours of finishing a night shift. 70% of hospitals do not currently record the number of midwives working beyond their contracted hours, but 68% report formal methods of recording missed rest breaks. Regional differences were seen in the use of other personnel to support the midwifery workforce. Conclusions: Shift schedules and the lack of formal methods to record the number of midwives working beyond their contracted hours may be a cause for concern due to the potential impact on recovery times. Further research is required to explore how working practices may affect midwives and their ability to provide care for women and their babies.