Government must invest in staff and services to deliver better maternity care for Black and Asian women says RCM
on 18 April 2023 RCM Maternity Services MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Midwifery Midwives Staffing Levels Government Expectant Mothers England Midwife Shortage Midwifery Workforce NHS Funding Pregnancy Prevention Public Health BAME Women's Rights Equality and Diversity
Investment and resources must be targeted towards reducing poorer outcomes for Black women in maternity care as a matter of urgency. That’s the message from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) responding to a report from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee on Black maternal health published today.
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said: “No-one’s health or care should be compromised because of the colour of their skin, yet today’s report shows that it is still happening. The RCM is working hard to reduce these inequalities, from its ground-breaking decolonising midwifery toolkit to its Race Matters campaign, but we recognise that we cannot do this alone. Black and Asian women are too often not being listened to by staff on the frontline, nor are their voices being heard by those running and designing maternity services: this must change. We must eradicate the gap once and for all and make maternity care safe for everyone.”
The RCM has produced a range of resources and initiatives to support midwives and maternity staff to deliver safer and better care for Black women and those from Asian and other ethnic communities. This includes work on decolonising the midwifery training curriculum. The toolkit the RCM has produced tackles multiple issues, including encouraging student recruitment from diverse backgrounds, and ensuring the curriculum educates students to care for women and babies from non-white backgrounds.
The RCM also has a long running RCM Race Matters programme and resources to support better care around perinatal mental health. The RCM ’s mentorship programme to support Black and Asian midwives with their career development aims to increase the number of senior midwives from these communities. The RCM is also collaborating with many organisations - including the Race and Health Observatory and Health Education England - to improve care and support for Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic women.
Gill Walton added, “Maternity services and staff are also over-stretched and over-burdened as they are under-staffed and under-resourced. Too often we see midwives pulled from crucial antenatal and postnatal care, where midwives have important discussions with women, to make labour and birth safe. This should not have to happen, and all parts of the service should be resourced effectively.
“There is investment going in but not enough, and it is not reaching the frontline quickly enough. England also has a massive midwife shortage that has persisted for well over a decade and now sits at 2500 short of the numbers needed. This shortage also hits the ability of maternity staff to do training around race and discrimination. No matter how hard midwives and their colleagues work, without the training and resources they need they can at best just chip away at improving care and outcomes for Black women and all women. This is a failure of government policy and a lack of political will to invest adequately in maternity services and the women they care for.”
To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].
Notes to Editor
The Women and Equalities Committee Black maternal Health report can be read at Black maternal health (parliament.uk)
- Race matters (rcm.org.uk)
- RCM seeks to widen the lens in midwifery education to address colonialism in maternity
- 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.