RCM calls for re-doubling of efforts to end racism in the NHS

on 23 May 2022 RCM Maternity Services Maternity Safety Equality and Diversity Birthrights

Safe and high-quality maternity care is the right of all women but for too many this is not the case because of the colour of their skin says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). The RCM statement comes as a report into racial injustice and human rights in UK maternity care is published today by the pregnancy and childbirth charity Birthrights.

The report found that Black and Asian women using maternity services regularly face being ignored or not believed when talking about their pregnancy and care. They also faced racism from caregivers, less choice, and experienced coercion in their maternity care. Among the report’s recommendations is for maternity organisations to commit to be anti-racist, for inclusive workforce cultures and that Black and Asian women and birthing people to be decision-makers in their care.

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said: “This report makes disturbing and worrying reading but it has shone a bright light into our maternity services, giving voice to those who have been marginalised. It is a wake-up call for all of us involved in maternity care, which is not making the progress needed to deliver consistent care for all women, regardless of their ethnicity or the colour of their skin. It saddens me even more that some of the racism and prejudice they face has come from the very staff there to care for them. The RCM is committed to being anti-racist, supporting midwives and maternity support workers of colour and doing what we can to improve the care given to Black and Asian pregnant women. Our NHS should be a place where Black and Brown women, and staff, are listened to, and feel safe, cared for and supported, but sadly this is too often not the case.

The RCM has been working hard to address many of the issues in the report through its Race Matters programme. This aims to improve maternity care and outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic women and working conditions in the NHS for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff. As part of the Race Matters programme, the RCM put forward a motion at the TUC Black Workers’ Conference to decolonise the midwifery curriculum, calling for better training for midwives on assessing different skin tones. This is an area which the RCM is championing and which it will present at its conference later in the year.

The RCM has been highlighting the disproportionate number of disciplinary cases against Black, Asian and minority ethnic midwives, and has just completed a survey of their experiences, which it will be reporting on. The RCM has also been highly active in championing the maternity rights of migrant women coming to the UK and recently published guidance on caring for migrant women. Last year also saw the launch of a RCM mentoring scheme to support Black, Asian, and minority ethnic midwives and maternity support workers with their career development, with the aim of having more leaders from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in maternity services.

Gill Walton added, “We can and must turn this situation around so that women whatever their race, skin colour, religion or ethnicity are treated equally and respectfully by the NHS and the people working in it. All of us – from organisations like the RCM to governments and NHS bodies, including trusts and boards - must do more and must do better.


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

Notes to Editors

The Birthrights report can be read at Inquiry into racial injustice in maternity care - Birthrights.

For more information on the RCM’s Race Matters initiative visit Race Matters (rcm.org.uk).

See also Improve midwifery education about skin colour to make maternity care safer says RCM.

See also Organisational change urgently needed to improve levels of discrimination experienced by NHS staff (rcm.org.uk).

See also RCM launches surveys on Black, Asian and minority ethnic member experiences of disciplinary processes.

See also RCM calls for end to migrant women maternity charging over safety fears.

See also We are Turning the Tide: RCM champions career development and support for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic midwives.

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