Making maternity services work for women and for staff must be a priority for the next Government, says RCM

on 24 June 2024 NHS Staff Staffing Levels Maternity Services Safety Safe high quality care Maternity Safety Midwives Midwifery Women Flexible Working

Creativity and flexibility around maternity staffing and facilities that are fit for purpose must be a priority for the next Government, says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as the country enters the last full week of General Election campaigning. The College is calling on the next Government – and the next Parliament – to make the changes that could truly make Britain’s maternity services not only safer, but the envy of the world. 

A lack of flexibility and fairness around working patterns is forcing too many skilled and experienced staff out of midwifery – or to bank and agency roles which are incredibly expensive for the NHS. To prevent the exodus, and secure the NHS investment in these staff, the RCM is calling on the next Government to facilitate greater flexibility around staffing patterns, which recognise the needs of midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs). Not only will this greatly improve staff retention and morale, care for women and families will improve as a result too. 

RCM Chief Executive, Gill Walton, said: 

“The cost of understaffing in maternity care is huge – and it can be calculated in personal and monetary terms. We know that staff are working way beyond their hours in order to provide the necessary care and support to women. In just one week this year, we calculated that midwives worked an additional 141,000 unpaid hours. Meanwhile, in England alone in 2022/23, NHS Trusts spent more than £112m on agency and bank midwives1. Wouldn’t it be better to learn from those Trusts and Boards that are doing great work on fairer work patterns and to amplify it across the NHS? 

“Sorting out shift patterns may not grab the headlines, but if we get it right it could be absolutely transformational for maternity services – for the women and families accessing them, and the staff working in them.” 

As well as investing in staff, the College has also called on the next Government to invest in the bricks and mortar of maternity services. Stories of peeling paintwork and ceilings being held up by props are common, but worryingly midwives are providing care in in rooms that aren’t even able to accommodate necessary equipment.  

Gill Walton added: 

“This isn’t about a lick of paint here and there. Maternity safety is being undermined by our hospital estates. Some consultation rooms are so small, not only do they struggle to accommodate both the woman and the midwife providing care, but it’s impossible to fit in necessary equipment too. Maternity care is universal. It’s available 24/7, 365 days a year. In spite of this, it’s too often at the bottom of the list for investment. Under the next Government, this has to change.” 

The RCM is calling on its nearly 50,000 members to consider the parties’ commitments to maternity care and to use the power of their vote to help drive the positive change needed. 


For interview requests and to contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected]  




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.