RCM calls for ‘a decent pay deal’ amid staffing shortages, fears for safety low morale and burnout

By Gemma Murphy on 19 January 2021 Midwifery Funding Maternity Safety Pay NHS Pay Review Body NHS NHS Staff NHS England NHS Funding NHS Unions

Eight out of 10 (83%) Royal College of Midwives (RCM) members say they do not feel their maternity service has the right number of staff to operate safely, with a further 71% of members considering leaving the profession for good.

These latest figures have been published today as part of the RCM’s submission of evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) with a stark warning from the College that midwives will leave the profession in their droves if they are not awarded a decent increase in pay.

The RCM says that, in real terms, the value of pay for a midwife earning the full rate of band six, which includes the majority of midwives working in the NHS, has decreased by over £7000 since 2010.

Commenting, Jon Skewes Executive Director for External Relations at the RCM said

“Midwives and MSWs working in the NHS are privileged to share some of the most significant moments in the lives of women and their families and are proud to do so. But that pride will not pay the bills. Our evidence to the Pay Review Body includes the lived experience of those midwives and MSWs on the front line, those who are trying their best to deliver safe care to women and their families in a service that is struggling with a long standing and damaging shortage of midwives. What maternity services up and down the UK need now is a decent pay rise to keep existing staff in the service and make sure that midwifery is seen as an attractive career option for the midwives of the future. Without this we cannot hope to close the gap on the shortage of midwives, let alone grow the services we can offer. It is time for the Government to listen and consider a decent and early pay rise for our hardworking midwives and MSWs.”

The RCM says staffing numbers over the past number of years have decreased due to poor pay and working conditions, the impact of Brexit on midwives from Europe and early retirement. The Government’s commitment to train 3,650 more midwives made in 2018 has yet to be met, with experienced midwives continuing to vote with their feet. The College has cautioned that it will take several years for any new midwives to increase the overall numbers as those joining the profession must be balanced against the number of midwives leaving.

Before the pandemic, seven out of 10 (71%) Heads of Midwifery (HoMs) said they were carrying midwife vacancies in their service, with nearly half (49%) saying they didn’t have enough maternity support workers. Over 80% of HoMs say they rely on a significant or moderate level of goodwill from staff to keep going. It is hardly surprising, then, that both HoMs and other RCM members believe that low morale continues to be rife among maternity staff.

While every maternity service is ambitious to offer Maternity Continuity of Carer, where pregnant women are seen by the same individual or team of midwives throughout their pregnancy, a staggering 95% of midwives said they did not feel there are sufficient numbers of staff to implement it safely.

Jon added:

“We know that even before the pandemic midwives where working unpaid overtime to ensure they could deliver care to women, but we cannot rely on the goodwill of midwives to keep services running safely any longer. The pandemic has exposed staffing shortages and, in some cases, compounded it. We are now 3,000 midwives short in England alone and that’s a real concern. If we are to ensure safety in our maternity services, we need the right number of midwives in the right place at the right time and they need to be valued and paid fairy for their commitment and dedication.”




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/.