Government must act now to reverse rise in maternal deaths, says RCM

By Government must act now to reverse rise in maternal deaths, says RCM on 10 November 2022 RCM Maternity Services Midwifery Midwives Staffing Levels Government NHS Staff Midwifery Workforce NHS Funding Maternity Safety Women MBRRACE

The ‘statistically significant’ increase in maternal deaths reported today by MBRRACE-UK is a tragic indication of a lack of Government investment in maternity services, according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). Many of the deaths cited in the report are linked to mental health issues and although improving there are continuing inequalities in outcomes for Black and Asian women when compared to their white counterparts and for women living in deprived areas. Promised investment must be funnelled more quickly to where it is needed in key areas such as staffing and ongoing training to stem this tragic rise, says the RCM.

Serious and growing midwife shortages across England mean staff are often pulled away from antenatal and postnatal care to cover labour and birth. England is currently at least 2000 midwives short of the numbers needed and this is worsening month by month. With many of the maternal deaths cited in the report linked to the postnatal period and lack of access to perinatal mental health services, the RCM says maternity services must have the right staffing across the board to ensure safe care for women throughout and beyond pregnancy. Senior midwives across the country are having to make hard choices about where they deploy their staff because of the Government’s failure to act quickly enough and this is hitting access to safe and personalised care, says the RCM.

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said: “Any rise in maternal deaths however small is deeply worrying and we are moving backward not forward. Governments must focus efforts on the crucial areas where women are being let down and not getting the care they deserve and should expect. They cannot expect services to keep robbing Peter to pay Paul. This is having disastrous consequences for women and families and is impacting staff. We have overstretched midwives and maternity services that have been trying to do too much, with too little, for far too long. This should be a time of great joy for women and families, but tragically for some, it is a time of heartbreak. For all of us, women and their needs should come first and be right at the heart of everything we do.

“Serious staffing shortages within midwifery, obstetrics and related health professions are undermining the ability of maternity staff to deliver the safest possible care. We have a burnt-out and fragile maternity workforce who often cannot even do crucial mandatory training because of shortages and pressures. The sheer will and commitment of midwives, maternity support workers and their colleagues is keeping services afloat. It is clear though that their incredible dedication is not enough and they must be supported to deliver the care they so desperately want to. This is fundamentally a failure of policy makers and the Government to get funds quickly to where they are needed at the frontline of care. We have been raising this issue repeatedly and we must see this change rapidly to prevent avoidable deaths.”

The RCM is at the forefront of efforts to make care for women better and safer and to tackle inequalities in maternity care. However, this has to be backed up with Government action to reverse some of the deeply worrying findings in this report says the RCM. The College is collaborating with many organisations to support midwives, MSWs and other maternity staff to deliver the safest possible care including its involvement in the MBRRACE-UK reports. Among other key RCM joint initiatives are the Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth programme, the Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement and Each Baby Counts projects.


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

Notes to Editor

The MBRRACE-UK report can be read at MBRRACE-UK: Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK | NPEU (

For information on the RCM’s collaborative work on improving the safety and quality of maternity services in the UK see Safety and Quality Improvement (

See also RCM guidance for maternity staff working with migrant women at migrant women.

The RCM was part of a collaboration with the Centre for Mental Health that produced the report at

See also caring-for-pregnant-with-pre-existing-and-gestational-diabetes_digital.pdf ( also

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