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Midwives magazine: Issue 6 :: 2011

The RCM needs 100,000 signatures before parliament will consider debating the midwife shortage. This is our big chance, says Stuart Bonar.

Stuart Bonar
It was off to Cardiff in early August to meet Andrew RT Davies. When Andrew was Conservative shadow health minister in the Welsh Assembly, he was very useful to the RCM, for example helping to launch our Welsh manifesto before this year’s elections. Now, as the newly elected leader of the Conservatives in the assembly, he has remained a firm friend of the RCM.

Andrew took the time to visit the RCM offices in Cardiff to speak to me and to the head of the RCM in Wales, Helen Rogers. With a debate on maternity care coming up in the assembly, it is an important time for the RCM to be speaking to assembly members (AMs) like Andrew about the big issues facing maternity care in Wales. We will shortly be sending a full briefing to AMs from all parties.

The policy unit here at the RCM is working on a new report, The state of maternity services, so we can brief politicians like Andrew. We expect to be able to publish this in November, and hope that it will become something we publish annually. It will highlight trends – for example, that in 2010 there were more births in England than in any year since 1972, or that in 2010, there were fewer births to teenagers than in any year since 1956 – and compare and contrast maternity care in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We hope that this will lead to a better-informed debate about maternity care across the UK.

You may have heard about the online petition that RCM general secretary Cathy Warwick has lodged with parliament, calling for urgent action on the midwife shortage and a specific target to recruit an extra 5000 NHS midwives. To force MPs to debate this, we need at least 100,000 people to sign up in support. We got off to a great start with 1000 signatures the day after the petition went live.

But we need many more people to sign. You can find it online at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/13716. There is also a link to the petition in the ‘protect maternity services’ section of the RCM website.

As an organisation that works across the political spectrum, the RCM will be at the three main party conferences this year. Instead of the usual fringe event, at which an RCM representative stands up and gives a speech, this year we have helped organise the main health debate at each conference. Speakers will include the health secretary and Conservative chair of the House of Commons health select committee, the shadow health secretary, the Liberal Democrat health minister and others.

Cathy Warwick will appear on a panel of experts who will help inform the debate. We are hoping to be able to broadcast it live on the internet and allow people to comment using Twitter. More details will appear on the RCM Communities website.