Freedom of Information (FOI) Act requests conducted by the RCM have revealed that there are too few teachers to train the increasing number of student midwives.
The FOIs sent to 56 UK higher education institutions found that over the last three years the student-to-midwife ratio has been increasing gradually to 14 students per teacher, up from 13 in 2009/10.
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: ‘These figures reflect an increasing tightening of the belt and squeeze on the resources, as institutions are unable to hire as many midwife teachers as they need to keep the quality of education high.
‘Getting the number of midwifery teachers right is increasingly important, especially given the government’s welcome commitment on 16 May to maintain the number of midwifery student places.’
In 2003 the RCM recommended a minimum standard, based on an original standard supported by the NMC, of a maximum of 10 students to every teacher.
The number of institutions meeting this standard has dropped from four in 2009/10 to just one in 2011/12.
On a more positive note, the results showed more midwifery students are seeing their courses through to graduation with only 7% leaving without graduating in 2010/11, compared to 8% in 2009/10.
Cathy added: ‘We know that 82% of newly-qualified midwives are working in the NHS within six months of qualifying. That’s the highest it has been in seven years.’
But she warned: ‘Although there are more student midwives, the scale of the baby boom and, in particular, the rise in women with complex pregnancies who need more care than others and the greater complexity of pregnancy is outpacing the limited rise in NHS resources.’