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Cameron's pledge u-turn

28 January, 2011

Cameron's pledge u-turn

The RCM's Stuart Bonar explores the prime minister's promise of increasing the number of midwives by 3000.

The RCM’s Stuart Bonar explores the prime minister’s promise of increasing the number of midwives by 3000.

Midwives magazine: Issue 1 :: 2011

Stuart Bonar

We are hearing more and more criticism of the prime minister’s failure to follow through on his pre-election pledge to recruit an extra 3000 midwives into the NHS in England.

Writing in The Sun in January last year, David Cameron spoke of how midwives are being ‘stretched to breaking point’ and that they are ‘overworked and demoralised’. Because of this, he made a straightforward promise: ‘We will increase the number of midwives by 3000.’ No ifs, no buts.

Sometimes it is hard for facts like this to break through into the political and media mainstream, but this one has. People are increasingly aware that midwives have been mightily let down on this.

Challenged on Mr Cameron’s failure to follow through on this pledge, the Conservatives said that his promise was made on the basis of birth projections at the time, and that because the number of births had stopped rising, the promise did not make it into the coalition agreement between themselves and the Liberal Democrats.

We did some digging into this defence, and have found it to be full of holes. Firstly, there were no new birth figures or projections published between Mr Cameron making his pledge and the coalition agreement being signed. In fact, the latest birth projection around when Mr Cameron made his pledge is still the latest one – it won’t be updated until this coming autumn.

Secondly, that very projection points to a fall in the number of births, so if Mr Cameron had based his promise on it, then he would have been expecting the fall in the number of births that has subsequently taken place. The fall would not be a reason to abandon the promise of more midwives. Added to that, the official projection on which he said he based his promise actually predicted not only a fall in the number of births, but a bigger fall than has actually happened, so surely he should be increasing the number of additional midwives needed, not dropping the promise altogether?

We are determined to keep up the pressure on this and work with MPs from across the political spectrum to continue to push for more midwives. I would also like to ask you to help us too. If you live in England, please contact your local MP, and you can do that free, quickly and without even having to know who your local MP is, using this website: www.writetothem.com. Just input your postcode and away you go. Remind them of Mr Cameron’s pledge, explain why you believe there is a need for more midwives, and ask them to nudge the prime minister into action.

Elections in Scotland, Wales and NI
This May sees elections taking place to the Scottish Parliament as well as the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies. The RCM has produced manifestos for each country and is about to start delivering them to candidates from all the mainstream parties.

I will let you have full details in the future, and I will be calling on you to help us speak up for maternity services and make sure that those seeking election hear our voice loud and clear. 

Stuart bonar is the RCM public affairs officer

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