Midwife numbers drop by 600 in the year since minister admitted England was 2000 midwives short

on 30 June 2022 RCM Maternity Services Maternity Safety Government England Midwifery Workforce Midwife Shortage Health Select Committee Health and social care

Royal College of Midwives (RCM) analysis of new NHS statistics out today show that midwife numbers are continuing to plummet in England. This will further hit safety and pile even more pressure on maternity services that are already significantly understaffed says the RCM.

The statistics come just a year after Nadine Dorries - then a health minister - cited that England was 2000 midwives short in a letter to the Health and Social Care Select Committee.

Just over a month ago the RCM also revealed that the number of midwives in England is now lower than at the time of the last general election. The figures out today show that this is getting even worse. The latest numbers show that in April this year England had 677 fewer midwives than at the same time last year, with numbers dropping by the month. This fall is on top of the shortage of 2000 midwives in England leaving the NHS without the numbers needed to deliver safe and high-quality care for women, babies and their families.

Giving evidence to the London Assembly Health Committee just this morning Dr Suzanne Tyler, RCM Executive Director, Trade Union, outlined the impact on care and staff that shortages in London and across England were having. Commenting on the new figures she said: “Every month we are seeing the situation in our maternity service getting worse and worse as midwife numbers fall and fall and then fall further still. We have report after report nationally and locally – including the recent Ockenden Report - drawing clear lines between safety and staffing levels. Despite this we still see the Government failing to react and failing to invest adequately in maternity services.

“We must improve retention of the staff we have, we must bring more into the profession, and we must see a significant increase in the money coming into maternity services. If this does not happen, the quality of care will suffer, safety will suffer and the overburdened, demoralised and fragile maternity workforce will suffer also.”

A RCM survey last year showed that over half of midwives surveyed said they were considering leaving their job as a midwife with 57% saying they would leave the NHS in the next year. A majority said that the dissatisfaction with the care they were able to give, and staffing levels were among the main reasons they were considering leaving.

Suzanne Tyler added: “The exodus of midwives that we feared would happen, but hoped would not, seems to be becoming a reality. These dedicated and committed staff have been carrying our maternity services on their backs, working beyond their hours, with these often unpaid, and many have simply had enough. They came into this profession because they want to provide the safest and best possible care for women. The stress, pressures and demands of their jobs are mot making it possible without incredible sacrifice on their part, and a serious impact on the physical and mental health. It is no surprise that increasing numbers are not prepared to take this anymore.

“If alarm bells are not ringing loudly in the Department of Health and 10 Downing St, they should be. The inertia of our politicians and their indifference to the wellbeing of NHS staff and the people they care for is apparent. I hope the seriousness of the falling midwife numbers jolts them out of that inertia. If that does not happen, the crisis facing our maternity services can only worsen forcing yet more staff to leave, fuelling this crisis even further.”

The statistics come on a day when the RCM is holding a national virtual conference for its activists from across the UK. Staffing shortages and the impact on maternity staff and services are one of the issues being raised at the conference.


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

Notes to Editors

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