September 16 – England faces a “serious and large shortage” of midwives, which is having major impact on maternity services, it was claimed yesterday. Calling for the UK Prime Minister David Cameron to honour his pre-election pledge to recruit more midwives, The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said England needed 4,700 more specialist nurses.
Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the RCM, said: “It is also not just about numbers. Births are also becoming increasingly complex needing more of midwives’ time. The combination of this and the rising birthrate is a dangerous cocktail, threatening the safety and quality of maternity care. It means that too many maternity units across England are under-staffed and under-resourced to meet the demands made of them. It leaves me feeling deeply frustrated that we are not seeing any action from this Government to remedy this.”
The shortages range from 91 in the North East to 1,015 in the South East. London needs 862 more midwives, the East of England 780, and the East Midlands 600. The West Midlands has a shortfall of 418, with Yorkshire & the Humber needing 370, the South West 271 and the North West 257.
The RCM said midwife shortages have a “real and significant impact” on the quality of care and the choices available to women. Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said: “Midwife shortages are already having an appalling impact on maternity services.”
An NCT research report published in October 2010 found that 42 per cent of first-time mothers surveyed felt there were “never” or “only sometimes” enough midwives to help them in hospital after the birth of their baby. “Families are being let down, and urgent action is needed,” added Ms Duff. “Women in need of midwifery care cannot be left to languish on an ever-lengthening waiting list – they need care right away. Midwives are a unique resource, whose expertise in caring for women and their babies is not replicated by any other health professional.”
The government said it was expanding midwife places. A spokesman said the NHS employed 493 more midwives in May this year than a year previously. The spokesman said: “There are 2,490 planned midwifery training places this year. Safety is paramount in the NHS and all mothers and babies should expect and receive consistently excellent maternity care. Most women tell us that they feel positive about their maternity care experience.”