New RCM survey reveals more than half of midwives do not feel safe carrying out home visits

By New RCM survey reveals more than half of midwives do not feel safe carrying out home visits on 30 April 2020 Midwives RCM Maternity Services NHS Staff Midwifery NHS NHS Wales NHS England Community Midwives Health Select Committee Pregnancy Home Birth Postnatal Care

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says it is concerned for its members’ safety following a survey which found that over half of midwives do not feel safe carrying out home visits. Almost all of those who felt unsafe – a staggering 99% - cited fears of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, while almost half (46%) said it was because of a lack of appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE).

The results come ahead of the appearance of RCM Chief Executive before the House of Commons Health & Social Care Select Committee to discuss the NHS’s ability to provide key services during the pandemic.


Commenting, Gill Walton said: “Up and down the country, midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) are doing all they can to provide the care and support pregnant women need. We are concerned that so many of them feel unsafe working in the community and carrying out home visits.  The lack of appropriate PPE has been well-documented during this crisis and it is having a significant impact on our members’ ability to carry out home visits safely. This is simply not good enough.”


The survey also found that under a third of midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) who reported suffering symptoms of Coronavirus have been tested. Of those who did receive a test appointment, more than 20 per cent had to travel over ten miles from their home to be tested. With healthcare workers advised to self-isolate if a member of their household has COVID-19 symptoms, there is a knock-on effect to the availability of staff. In a tracking survey of maternity services carried out by the RCM, staff shortages continue to be double what they were before the pandemic.


Gill added:

“We need more midwives to be tested at a much quicker rate than is currently happening so those that our self-isolating can get back to work as soon as possible. Even before the pandemic, maternity services were struggling with staff shortages. Now around a fifth of midwife roles are unstaffed which understandably impacts on service provision, including home births and antenatal and postnatal appointments.”



Contact: RCM media relations team on 020 7312 3456 or [email protected]


Notes to Editors:

The survey was completed by 942 midwives, maternity support workers and student midwives between 21 and 28 April 2020. Key responses include:

  • 29% don’t feel their employer is keeping them safe
  • 35% do not feel safe at work, of whom 61% cite the availability of appropriate PPE
  • 54% don’t feel safe entering women’s homes, of whom 46% cite PPE, 84% cite the presence of other family members, and 99% potential exposure to the virus
  • 34% had reported shortages of PPE to their employers
  • Of those who said they had had COVID-19 symptoms, 28% had been tested.
  • Of those receiving a test, 54% travelled within five miles of their workplace, 20% within ten miles and 22% over 10 miles


The RCM has developed guidance to enable its members to stay safe during home visits. They have also asked pregnant women to do what they can to help protect midwives and themselves during home visits by doing the following;

  • Call your midwife or maternity service in advance of a midwife visiting if you or anyone in your home have symptoms of Covid-19.
  • Open the window of the room your midwife will be visiting you in so it is well ventilated.
  • Make space so the midwife can visit mother and baby alone.
  • Ensure other family members keep the 2-metre safe social distance.


They have produced an infographic which will be circulated via its members and on social media.

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.