Fears for maternity as staffing shortages hit safety and morale says RCM
The safety of maternity services is under serious threat, according to a new survey by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). The survey found that eight out of 10 midwives (83%) do not believe their NHS Trust or Board has enough staff to operate a safe service. Services are already stretched almost to breaking point, with 42% reporting that half of shifts are understaffed, and a third saying there are very significant gaps in most shifts.
These shortages are taking their toll on midwives and maternity support workers, with morale at rock-bottom. Seven out of 10 (71%) have considered leaving the profession, while over a third (38%) are seriously thinking about it.
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said:
“These are dedicated professionals caring for women, babies and their families through the enormous pressures of the pandemic. They are being pushed to the edge by the failure of successive governments to invest in maternity services. Maternity staff are exhausted, they’re demoralised and some of them are looking for the door. For the safety of every pregnant woman and every baby, this cannot be allowed to continue.”
Targets set in 2010 by Prime Minister David Cameron to increase the number of midwives by 3000 have failed to materialise 10 years on. Instead many Trusts and Boards are having to operate a ‘make do and mend’ service that relies on staff working beyond their contracted hours. That overtime is often unpaid, with the RCM’s survey finding that nearly two-thirds (63%) of midwives are working beyond their contracted hours for no additional pay. In light of this, it is unsurprising that just two per cent said they felt valued by the UK Government.
Gill Walton added:
“Midwives and maternity support workers are incredibly resilient, and it saddens and angers me to see the system crushing that indomitable spirit. They come into the profession to support women and families through a life-changing time in their lives. They come into the profession to provide safe, high quality care. The legacy of under-funding and under-investment is robbing them of that – and worse still, it’s putting those women and families at risk.
“It shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic to shine a light on these issues. We are saying to policy-makers, stop kicking the can down the road. Fund maternity services now, fund them properly, and give staff the resources and support they need before we lose more of them, cutting even deeper into the ability of maternity and the NHS to ensure safe services and the best care.”
To contact the RCM media office call 020 7312 3456 or email [email protected]. Notes to Editors
The survey was conducted online from 28 October to 8 November 2020. There were 1400 responses, predominantly from England (Wales: 58; Scotland: 144; Northern Ireland: 76).
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/.