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

on 25 July 2022 RCM Maternity Services Midwifery Workforce Midwife Shortage MSWs - Maternity Support Workers England Pay Department of Health Midwifery Midwives Safety Staffing Levels Wellbeing Of Women Women Maternity Safety

The Government must act now to stop England’s maternity services spiralling into an ever-worsening crisis says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). This comes as the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s Expert Panel - to which the RCM gave evidence - publishes its report today (25 July) on the Government’s progress in tackling the workforce crisis in maternity services. The report is damning in its conclusion that there is no ‘credible government strategy to tackle the situation’.

The report points to the serious shortage of midwives and the pressures on maternity services. The Government, says the report, must set out a plan within six months to explain how it will deliver safe staffing levels for England’s maternity services. The RCM says that England remains over 2000 midwives short of the numbers needed, a position supported by the Select Committee in its maternity safety inquiry last year. RCM analysis of the latest figures showed that midwife numbers in April this year were 600 down on April last year, and lower than at the last General Election.

Suzanne Tyler, Executive Director, Trade Union at the RCM, said: “This shows an alarming and deeply worrying picture of a government failing maternity services, failing their staff, and failing women, babies, and their families. We have an NHS spiralling ever deeper into crisis yet see only a lacklustre response to it from those in power. Midwives and maternity support workers are breaking their backs to ensure safe and high-quality care against increasingly overwhelming odds, often to the detriment of their own mental and physical health. England has seen a decade and more of serious midwife shortages which are worsening monthly. This simply cannot and must not continue.

“Staff morale is shattered as they face a tidal wave of demands without the staffing, resources, and support to meet them. That is why so many are deciding they cannot take it anymore and are simply walking away. Midwives who are passionate about delivering the highest quality care are walking away from ‘the best job in the world’ because they are overworked, burnt out and feel undervalued.  Too many feel they have nothing left to give. Without enough of them, the safety and quality of care is compromised, and mistakes are made. There is a black hole in the centre of our NHS where staffing and resources should be, and the lifeblood of the NHS is disappearing into it.”

The report also focuses on the wellbeing of NHS staff saying that rates of bullying, harassment and abuse in the NHS remain ‘concerningly high’.

Suzanne Tyler added, “Employers must fulfil their duty of care to look after the health and wellbeing of their staff and not only protect them from bullying but take steps to eradicate it. They and the Government must step up, put in the resources, and show they really value their staff because they are the NHS’s most precious resource. This also means giving them a wage rise that reflects the rising cost of living and years of pay stagnation. NHS staff are the NHS, and without enough of them, and without valuing and supporting them, we have nothing.”


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

Notes to Editor

See the RCM’s Safe Midwife Staffing position statement at rcm-position-statement-safe-midwife-staffing.pdf.

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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