Welsh midwives work hundreds of unpaid extra hours to keep services safe

on 10 April 2024 RCM Wales NHS Wales RCM Member RCM Wales Midwifery Midwives Midwife Shortage Maternity Services MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Pay NHS Pay Review Body Pay and Agenda For Change Safety Maternity Safety

Midwives in Wales are working hundreds of extra unpaid hours to keep maternity services running safely. Results of a poll published by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have revealed more than eight out of 10 (83%) midwives have worked extra hours for no pay over the course of just one week.

Over half (53%) of midwives told the RCM they had worked five additional hours across just one week in March, while almost a quarter (21%) had worked up to 10 extra hours unpaid. Shockingly, almost 10% of those surveyed had worked over ten hours, the equivalent of an extra shift.

The RCM has described the situation as ‘unsustainable’ and ‘grossly unfair’ particularly as midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) in Wales remain in limbo about their pay award which is once again overdue. In its evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB), in addition to a real terms pay increase, one of the RCM’s asks was for members who work additional hours to get paid fairly. Improving pay was also highlighted as a crucial factor in retaining midwives.

Commenting, the RCM’s Director for Wales, Julie Richards, said:

“The results of this poll are deeply concerning and have really laid bare the extent to which maternity services in Wales are too often run on the goodwill of midwives and MSWs. They come at time when our hardworking members have again been left in limbo with regards to their pay. The Welsh Government should be doing all it can to support our members as the strive to improve the care they are delivering in Wales. However, it would appear valuing staff and paying them fairly for what they do is sadly not a priority for this Government. This is simply not good enough when we see official report after official report making a direct connection between staffing levels and safety. While there has been some progress it clearly is not happening at the pace that’s needed to improve safety in Welsh maternity services.”

Alarmingly the RCM says over two-thirds of midwives (67%) said they did not feel their services were safely staffed during the seven days between Monday 4 March to Sunday 10 March. Almost the same number (62%) said in the past year they had considered leaving the profession, citing the main reason as safe staffing followed closely by pay.

Juile added:

“Not having the right number of staff undoubtedly impacts the safety and the quality of the care that can be delivered. Our members have told us often of the distress they experience as they struggle to deliver the high-quality care that they know they can when there are acute staffing shortages. The pressure that comes with that is immense. Women, their babies, and families in Wales deserve better and those working in our maternity services deserve to be better supported to deliver the safest care they can.”

Earlier this year the RCM said that ‘ending the midwifery staffing shortage was possible’ as it published a new guide which also included low cost solutions to improve working conditions for midwives, It was developed for current and future Members of Parliament, setting out solutions to the issues faced In Wales but right across the UK.




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



  • RCM poll of all members (midwives and MSWs) in England, Scotland and Wales ran from midday on Monday 11 March 2023 until midnight on Monday 18 March 2024.
  • The questions asked were specifically related to RCM members’ experiences at work in the week from Monday 4 to Sunday 10 March 2024 (inclusive).
  • The survey had 1,548 responses in total. 96% of respondents described themselves as midwives, and 4% described themselves as maternity support workers (MSWs)/Maternity care assistants (MCAs).
  • Full results are available on request – email [email protected]
  • RCM tells politicians how to fix the midwifery staffing crisis with new pre-election guide


*Please see below for how the RCM calculated the estimate for the number of free hours worked by midwives during the week of the survey.


  • The number of extra unpaid hours is calculated using NHS workforce figures to estimate how many midwives fell into each of these categories.
  • We took the regional percentage shares of those who worked zero extra unpaid hours; up to five hours; between five and 10 hours; and over 10 hours.
  • We used the headcount midwifery workforce figure for this as the respondents were people who worked part-time and full-time.
  • The latest workforce data for Wales was taken from here: Nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff, by grade and area of work (gov.wales)

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