Midwife numbers now lower than at the last general election says RCM

By RCM on 26 May 2022 Midwives RCM Maternity Services Safety Maternity Safety Women RCM CEO RCM Member NHS NHS Staff Staffing Levels NHS England England NHS Funding Government MSWs - Maternity Support Workers

 New monthly NHS workforce figures for England analysed by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have revealed that the number of midwives in England is now lower than at the time of the last general election.

These latest figures are in fact worse than the previous NHS workforce report, published last month and show a 12-month drop of 552 midwives. This coupled with an existing shortage of well over 2,000 midwives means maternity services right across England continue to suffer and struggle with no end in sight or tangible solution from Government to the recruitment and retention crisis.

This week RCM’s Chief Executive Gill Walton warned without greater efforts to retain existing staff and recruit new ones, the maternity workforce will remain very fragile. The warning came as she was giving evidence to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee which is holding an inquiry into NHS workforce issues.


Commenting, RCM’s Chief Executive Gill Walton said:

“These figures fly in the face of Government promises to invest in more maternity staff and improve recruitment and retention. They show us again that more urgently needs to be done to improve staffing levels across maternity services in England, but we are beginning to wonder if the Government listening to us? The RCM for years has warned that a shortage of midwives is impacting the delivery of safe care. Donna Ockenden’s recent report into the failures at Shrewsbury and Telford cited once again, understaffing as a key factor in the tragedies that happened at that trust. Also, the majority of reports we see from the CQC into failed or failing maternity services every time tell us understaffing is a key contributing factor.”

In giving evidence to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee the RCM also highlighted that morale among midwives and maternity support workers was at its lowest point for some time. The RCM says they have offered the Government solutions to the recruitment and retention crisis, one of which is flexible working. The College says over 60% of midwives have caring responsibilities, and so being able to plan their work and work flexibly is really important. Giving maternity staff options and improving their work-life balance will keep them in practice.

Gill added:

“When will the Government realise that their very own ambition and election manifesto commitment to ‘make the NHS the best place in the world to give birth’ won’t work without enough midwives to deliver safe care. They owe that to women, their families, and babies. They owe it to the midwives and maternity staff that are currently working harder than they’ve ever done to plug the staffing gaps and keep services afloat. Many midwives have told us they are heading for the door as they cannot continue to work the way they are as it’s impacting their physical and mental health. We are at crisis point and the RCM is calling on the Government again to redouble their efforts to retain and recruit more midwives before it’s too late.”



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


Notes to Editors: 

About the RCM


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