RCM launches midwifery staffing publications: 'Right numbers, right skills, right place'

By RCM on 05 December 2016 Staffing Levels NICE - The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Midwifery Workforce

Midwifery staffing is the focus of two new publications from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). ‘Getting the Midwifery Workforce right’ and ‘RCM guidance on implementing the NICE safe staffing guideline on midwifery staffing in maternity settings’.

Both publications aim to support trusts in having the right numbers of midwifery staff to deliver real choice and safe, high quality care for women, babies and their families.

Maternity services are facing rising demands from a historically high birthrate. Added to this are increasingly complex pregnancies and expectations that midwives will deliver more support and advice to women and their families. 

This growing demand is coupled with midwifery supply problems including a decade long midwifery shortage, a rapidly ageing workforce and fears of a fall in applications to study midwifery.

The Getting the Midwifery Workforce Right publication outlines how maternity services should be organised funded and staffed. It also outlines the role of the midwife and approaches for services that are most likely to lead to safe and effective care.

The document has a number of key messages. Among them is the need for better continuity of care – that is women receiving the majority of care from a small group of midwives they know and trust.

It also stresses that there should be no extension of the midwife’s role into obstetric, nursing or any other areas of practice. The RCM also argues against a new advanced practitioner role in midwifery, stressing that consultant midwives already fill this type of role.

The document also calls for a nationally agreed framework for support workers (normally called maternity support workers), along with a national training programme for them.

It also highlights the serious and prolonged shortage of midwives in England, which the RCM estimates as 3500 whole time equivalent midwives short of the numbers needed. The other UK countries also face potential midwifery shortages as large numbers of midwives head towards retirement.

The safe staffing publication supports the NICE guideline recommendation. This publication, aimed at senior midwives and NHS mangers, aims to support them to implement the NICE safe midwifery staffing guideline.

It covers areas including the tools available for workforce planning such as Birthrate Plus, responding to variations in demand in maternity services, and issues around capacity and the challenges this presents for maternity services.

The publication highlights that having the right number of people, with the right skills, in the right place is fundamental to delivering a safe, high quality service.

Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “These are challenging times in maternity services and the wider NHS. Getting the right staffing levels and skill mix in can be a difficult and frustrating process. This is particularly relevant as many senior midwives face increasing demands and often diminishing resources and staffing.

“I am sure these publications will help senior midwives and other NHS managers to apply rigorous procedures for getting the best possible levels of care from available resources. They may also help them to make a case for increases in staffing and funding. There are tools and guidelines for trusts to calculate the needs of maternity services, and we would expect trusts to use them accordingly."

Getting the midwifery workforce right

RCM guidance on implementing the NICE safe staffing guideline on midwifery staffing in maternity settings

To contact the RCM Press Office call 020 7312 3456 or email [email protected].


Notes to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.