It has been alleged that birthing mothers are suffering as several NHS trusts have suspended the use of pain-relieving gas and air. Hospitals have taken this step due to concerns about the exposure of medical staff to harmful levels of nitrous oxide in the workplace. The nitrous oxide and oxygen combination has been found to exceed established limits by 50 times in some NHS units, according to The Sunday Times.
While some hospitals have taken steps to address this issue, including installing machines to break up the gas into harmless components, others have temporarily suspended the use of the gas. This has been criticized as “madness” by some, who argue that this popular option for pain relief may now be out of reach for some pregnant women.
One such woman, Amy Fantis, who is due to give birth at the Princess Alexandra hospital in Essex, expressed concern that the suspension of gas and air was causing her unnecessary stress. She had relied on the pain relief during a previous birth and was worried that it might not be available to her this time. High levels of nitrous oxide have also been detected at a number of other trusts, including Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and Watford General Hospital.
The Royal College of Midwives has described poor ventilation in delivery suites as “just the tip of the iceberg” in the issue of maternity units that are unfit for purpose. The NHS has stated that it has been working with affected trusts to resolve the issue and that patients should continue to access services as normal.