Midwives wish for well-led, well-resourced maternity services for the New Year
Well-led, well-resourced maternity services are at the top of midwives’ wish list for the coming year. The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has set out its stall for a safe 2021, where pregnant women receive care in well-funded maternity services from midwives who are properly paid.
Top of the wish list for Gill Walton, the Chief Executive of the RCM, is that there are enough midwives and maternity support workers to deliver safe care to women and their babies throughout the UK. The RCM has warned that staffing shortages particularly in England are compromising the delivery of safe maternity services, with the pandemic only serving to expose the fault lines.
Commenting, RCM’s Chief Executive, Gill Walton said: “Hundreds of thousands of babies are born in the UK each year. I want 2021 to be the year where women get the positive birth experience they want, based on informed choices that are right for them. To make that happen, we have got to have more midwives who are better trained and better supported, with the right leadership in place to ensure that delivering good maternity care is a priority in every NHS Trust and Board.”
Gill’s list has just five wishes, but each of them has the potential to have a huge positive impact on maternity services in the UK:
- Enough midwives to deliver a good service to every woman
The running sore of understaffing has to stop. In England alone there is a shortage of 3,000 midwives, leading to existing staff working beyond their hours and facing burnout. An RCM survey published in November found that eight out of 10 midwives (83%) do not believe their NHS Trust or Board has enough staff to operate a safe service. With 42% reporting that half of shifts are understaffed.
- Every woman to have a positive birth experience
The RCM wants women to be able to make the right choices for them and their baby, supported by midwives who can offer the best advice based on their circumstances. Improvements in staff numbers will allow midwives to spend time with women to better understand their needs and to support them to make informed choices. It will also ensure greater opportunities for training, including multi-disciplinary training with other maternity staff.
- Strong midwifery leadership in every NHS Trust and Board delivering maternity care
Strong leadership within midwifery is vital if challenges facing maternity are to be met. The RCM is calling for a Director of Midwifery, sitting at board level, in every Trust and Health Board to embed midwifery leadership in every part of the NHS that delivers maternity care. More consultant midwives are also needed to drive improvements in the provision of maternity care, including around safety and service delivery.
- Better, properly funded training that reflects the multi-disciplinary nature of maternity care
The recently published Ockenden review highlighted the need for improved funding and access to multidisciplinary training. Time and time again funding allocated for maternity staff training is not used for its intended purposes. This must change in 2021 if we are to tackle poor culture and improve multi-disciplinary working.
- Deliver a decent pay deal for midwives and maternity support workers
During the pandemic almost 40 percent of midwives were working additional unpaid overtime to keep services running safely. We need to show midwives and maternity support workers that they are valued and in turn boost recruitment and retention.
Gill added: “The RCM is committed to improving maternity safety, but we cannot do this without fully staffed services. Midwives and maternity support workers are resilient, dedicated professionals, but the pandemic has placed enormous pressure on them in already overstretched maternity services. Our members are being pushed to the edge by the failure of successive governments to invest in maternity services. Maternity staff are exhausted, they are 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.
“If we want maternity care in the UK to be truly world-leading, we must make this wish list a reality in 2021.”
To contact the RCM media 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/.