England birth rate rise: 10,000 reasons why investment in maternity services is urgently needed says RCM

on 09 August 2022 RCM Maternity Services Midwifery Workforce Midwife Shortage MSWs - Maternity Support Workers England Pay Midwifery Midwives Staffing Levels Government Birth rate

As new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a significant rise in births in England, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has renewed its call for greater investment in maternity services and staff.

The figures show that births rose in every English region except London with 10,000 more births across the country from 2020 to 2021, reversing previous falls. At the same time midwife numbers have dropped across all the English regions, a situation that is simply untenable says the RCM.

Birte Harlev-Lam, Executive Director, Midwife, at the RCM, said: “England’s maternity services are under massive and increasing pressures as births rise and serious midwife shortages worsen. On top of this there is significant underinvestment from the Government. Maternity services are caught in a vicious cycle. The strain on services is leading to midwives leaving the NHS, worsening the shortage, putting more pressure on those remaining, making them in turn more likely to vote with their feet.

“This is directly affecting the safety and quality of care for women, babies, and their families. The situation is spiralling out of control and needs significant and urgent investment from the Government right now. There should be klaxons sounding, alarm bells ringing and red lights flashing across the Government warning them of the seriousness of the situation, and one that is deteriorating rapidly.”

England is over 2000 midwives short of the numbers needed says the RCM, and that is worsening. RCM analysis of Government figures shows that England’s maternity services were down a further 600 midwives between 2020 and 2021. An RCM survey last year showed over half of midwives (57%) saying they were considering leaving the NHS, with fears about the quality of care they were able to give as the main driver. Another survey of NHS staff in June showed that pay was a major factor pushing many away from the NHS. Over four out of five NHS health workers (80%) - including midwives - said they would quit the NHS over concerns about pay. The RCM is currently consulting its members in England on the Government’s pay offer for NHS staff.

A report by the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee last year said that an additional £250-350 million is required every year to improve the safety and quality of England’s maternity services.

Birte Harlev-Lam added, “The increase in the birth rate gives 10,000 more reasons why urgent and significant investment is needed. Women and babies, and midwives, maternity support workers and their colleagues are all feeling the effects of a decade and more of underfunding and successive government failures to address it. This is not an abstruse argument; there is a direct link between staffing levels and the safety of care as report after report including the recent Ockenden Report have said. This Government must stand up and explain to women, their families, and maternity staff why they are letting this desperate crisis in our maternity services continue.” 


To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected]. 

Notes to Editor

The ONS birth statistics for England and Wales can be viewed at Births in England and Wales: 2021 - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk).

See also RCM warns of midwife exodus as maternity staffing crisis grows.

See also Midwife numbers drop by 600 in the year since minister admitted England was 2000 midwives short (rcm.org.uk).

See also Maternity underfunding means care based on what trusts can afford not on women’s safety and needs says RCM.

See also Government must act now and invest in England’s NHS maternity services and staff says the RCM as ‘crisis’ looms.

See also Stalling maternal mortality figures show need for investment in maternity services says RCM.

See  Four out of five NHS staff say pay is main reason they would quit their jobs (rcm.org.uk).

The Royal College of Midwives (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 | A professional organisation and trade union dedicated to serving the whole midwifery team