Get behind our plans to deliver better maternity care for Northern Ireland’s women RCM urges politicians
By RCM on 22 March 2022 RCM Women Wellbeing Of Women Maternity Safety Safety Midwife Shortage NHS Staff Staffing Levels MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Midwifery Workforce Government Northern Ireland Director For Northern Ireland RCM Northern Ireland Politics
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is demanding improvements in maternity care for Northern Ireland’s women in its Blueprint for better maternity care published today.
In a direct message to Northern Ireland’s politicians ahead of Assembly elections in May, the RCM asks them to get behind its Blueprint to drive safety improvements. More midwives and greater investment in maternity services are also needed. Ringfenced money for ongoing initiatives to improve safety in Northern Ireland’s maternity services must also be put in place says the RCM.
The pandemic has lifted the veil on the real fragilities and serious underlying problems in Northern Ireland’s maternity services, that could see the quality and safety of care suffer. There is a desperate need for more midwives and other trained staff as demands and pressures on services increase. Added to this the pandemic has also taken a massive toll on already exhausted and fragile staff.
Karen Murray, RCM Director for Northern Ireland, said: “The pandemic has laid bare the precariousness of our maternity services. It will not take much to tip them over the edge compromising the quality of care, and there is no safety net. That’s why Investing in staffing and resources must be a priority for the next government. I am appealing to every MLA elected in the coming election to put their weight behind our call and support us publicly to make our maternity services the best they can be. Midwives and their colleagues are working incredibly hard to deliver safe care for women, but we must all work together to drive up standards even further. This needs investment, it needs a clear and honest roadmap, and it needs political will and action.
“It feels like our maternity services, the women who use them and the staff working in them have been side-lined to the fringes of the NHS, with no real attention or focus on them from the Government. I fear without that much needed focus and investment we are in real danger of seeing them begin to crumble, and we simply cannot let that happen.”
All of this is set against years of underfunding for maternity services despite rising demands, coupled with no meaningful workforce planning. There is also no coherent maternity strategy that will address this and start to reverse the situation says the RCM.
The RCM’s Blueprint lays out four key recommendations for the next Northern Ireland Government. These are:
- Safer and better resourced maternity care
- More midwives, so we can provide better and more specialist care
- A renewed maternity strategy to get Northern Ireland back on track
- Healthcare staff supported as they help the country recover from the pandemic
We must also learn the tragic lessons that have emerged from reviews of maternity services across the UK to prevent them happening in Northern Ireland says the Blueprint. A focus of many has been the need to improve working cultures in maternity services, and for more training involving all the professionals working in them. This will take hard work and resources but must be a priority. The RCM is already supporting initiatives to improve safety across the UK and in many areas in Northern Ireland is spearheading the work.
Karen Murray added, “We will soon have a new Assembly. I hope this will give us a new group of politicians who will stand with us and work with us and our NHS colleagues to make our maternity services the safest and best possible. We owe it to our incredible maternity staff, and most importantly, we owe it to the women, babies, and families of Northern Ireland. I say to our politicians, step forward, stand with us, and let’s solve this together.”
To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].
Notes to Editors:
The RCM’s Blueprint for Better Maternity Care in Northern Ireland can be read at Publications (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.