Isle of Man maternity strategy needed urgently to improve safety, care and choice for women says RCM
on 05 September 2022 RCM Maternity Services Midwifery Workforce Midwife Shortage MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Midwifery Midwives Staffing Levels Government Maternity Safety Midwife Training Specialist Midwives Women's Choice Women
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is today setting out the case for a review of maternity services and the development of a maternity strategy for the Isle of Man.
Currently the island has no overarching strategy for maternity care and the island does not have many of the resources – such as consultant midwives - to promote the safest possible care. Choices for women – such as having a homebirth - are also more limited than in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Added to this there is a serious shortage of midwives. Despite a workforce review in 2019 which found that more midwives are needed, that increase never happened. A third of the island’s midwives are also approaching retirement age and more midwives are needed now to make up for the loss of these midwives when they retire says the RCM.
Karen Murray - the RCM’s Director for Northern Ireland and its lead for the Isle of Man, said: “Maternity Services on the Isle of Man need urgent strategic direction. There are serious holes in midwife numbers, in funding, and in leadership. All this is crucial for safe care. Women on the island do not have the choices of care they should, and midwives are not being supported enough to do their jobs as well as they want to. Midwives are working incredibly hard to ensure women, babies, and their families get the safest and best possible care. However, there are not enough of them. I know we are pushing at an open door with the Manx Government on this, but this does need their attention now.”
Women’s choices are more limited than in the UK, they do not have the option of midwife led care or a home birth. The island has no consultant midwives who play a pivotal role in improving care and safety in maternity units. Added to this the island lacks specialist midwives to support women with issues such as mental health problems. There are also no trained maternity support workers (MSW) and these are also needed says the RCM. MSWs work on maternity units widely across the UK, supporting midwives and freeing up their time to provide more focused care for women.
The RCM acknowledges that recruiting and increasing the number of midwives is more challenging than other parts of the UK because this will mostly require people to relocate to the island from elsewhere. This means the Manx Government will have to try harder on recruitment, such as offering financial incentives in the short term to recruit midwives from off the island. Innovative longer-term solutions are also needed.
Current staff also need support and additional training. This is to maintain and extend their skills and so that they are able to deliver the services needed by women on the island. Expanding midwifery leadership roles and creating specialist midwife posts will also support recruitment and retention of midwives on the island.
Karen Murray added, “There should be red lights flashing about maternity services in the Manx Government, and these are warning lights they cannot, and must not ignore. The safety and wellbeing of women, babies and staff are being compromised. Urgent action is needed to address the issues facing the island’s maternity services. It is time to start that work without delay.”
To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].
Notes to Editor
The RCM case for an Isle of Man Maternity Strategy can be read at 0135_iom_state-of-maternity-report_digital.pdf (rcm.org.uk).
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.