RCM makes the case for a new maternity strategy for Northern Ireland

on 11 May 2021 Maternity Services NHS Funding Funding NHS MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Midwives RCM Northern Ireland RCM RCM Member Director For Northern Ireland covid-19 Covid-19 Leadership Midwifery Workforce

‘A renewed maternity strategy for Northern Ireland, grows more urgent with every passing day.’ That is the message from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as it calls for a new strategy to be developed since the current one ended three years ago and has not be replaced.

In its new publication, ‘Delivering better maternity care: The case for a new maternity strategy for Northern Ireland’, launched today the RCM highlights the crucial need for a new maternity strategy. In addition to calling for a strategic review of services, the RCM are also seeking an analysis of workforce issues and investment for implementation.

With over 20,000 babies born* in Northern Ireland every year and midwifery contributing to improving population health by supporting women and their babies to get the best start in life, getting the delivery of maternity services right is crucial.

Commenting, Karen Murray RCM’s Director for Northern Ireland said:

“It’s been over a decade since the Department of Health published the most recent maternity strategy and that expired three years ago that is why we are calling for this work to get underway. It’s vital that we get the delivery of maternity services right and we have enough midwives trained to meet the growing demand being placed on services. It’s particularly important for all our members and midwifery leaders in Northern Ireland to have a fit for purpose strategy to work with.

“By supporting women to achieve optimum health in pregnancy, midwives help to reduce future morbidity, mortality and health inequalities for women, children, and families. The vital importance of that work underlines why we cannot just let maternity services drift along on a course first set down a decade ago.”

The pandemic has forced health services across the world to change how care is delivered. That has included maternity care in Northern Ireland and while some of the changes have been positive during the pandemic some exposed holes and pressure points in maternity services.

The RCM has also cited workforce issues as a major factor for change with over 70% of midwives in Northern Ireland working part-time.

Karen added; “There have been lots of positive innovations during COVID-19, like the setting up of helplines for women run by midwives who were shielding, which resulted in the hospital-based maternity staff being free to provide direct clinical care. The establishment of community hubs for antenatal and postnatal care allowed continuity of care to flourish, but not every change was positive. Booking appointments were largely conducted remotely to reduce the amount of time midwives and women spent in proximity. These are all changes to the way midwives work which could influence longer-term change in how we deliver maternity services in Northern Ireland.

“We must also consider workforce issues, training new midwives takes time and we need the right number of midwives to enable us to deliver safe care to women and their families. Of course, a maternity strategy alone will struggle to deliver impactful change. That is why we also need financial investment to implement any new recommendations going forward to try future proof maternity services in Northern Ireland.”


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.




Gemma Murphy Media Relations Advisor