Women in labour are being denied gas and air pain relief over fears for the health of midwives and doctors. They could be exposed to harmful levels in their work, it is claimed.
The Royal College of Midwives blames poor ventilation in many rundown maternity units it describes as “not fit for purpose”.
While gas and air – a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen – is safe during delivery, lengthy exposure can cause vitamin B12 deficiency. Symptoms can include anaemia and depression.
The exhaled gas is also a harmful greenhouse emission 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Hospitals across the country have stopped using the mix known as Entonox. Mid and South Essex NHS Trust is being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive after Basildon Hospital was found to have levels 30 times higher than the workplace limit of 100 parts per million.
Gas and air was banned there pending installation of a new ventilation system.
But the Daily Express has been told there is no date set to bring it back. The trust said other pain relief was available.
The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, stopped using gas and air earlier this month. It has since secured three kits which break up exhaled gas to make it harmless, but there are not enough machines for all.
Amy Fantis, 36, of Broxbourne, Herts, who is due to give birth there, said it is “a stress you don’t need”.
NHS England said it was working with affected trusts.
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