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RCM staff wellbeing survey shows safety concerns

1 June, 2016

RCM staff wellbeing survey shows safety concerns

Midwife burn-out is leading to safety fears, according to survey results from the RCM on the launch of its new campaign ‘Caring for You’.

Over half (52%) of midwives and MSWs who responded to a survey said that they had seen an error, near miss or incident that could have hurt service users in the last month. 

Half of the respondents also ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ with the statement: ‘I am worried about making a mistake at work because I am exhausted.’

These are some of the disturbing results of a UK survey around health, safety and wellbeing of midwives, student midwives and MSWs, published today (1 June) by the RCM.

The survey comes as the RCM launches a major campaign ‘Caring for You’, which aims to improve the health, safety and wellbeing at work of midwives and MSWs, so they are able to provide high-quality maternity care for women and their families.

The survey paints a worrying picture of midwives and MSWs facing staffing shortages and increasing demands, showing that they are overworked and under pressure to deliver safe, high-quality care with dwindling resources.

Almost half (48%) of respondents to the survey said they felt stress every day or most days. The most common reasons for stress were workload (78%), staff shortages (76%) and not enough time to do their job (65%).

The survey shows that a significant proportion of staff are going without breaks, food and drink and working very long hours.

Only a fifth (21%) of respondents said they take their entitled breaks most or all of the time. A large number (62%) of respondents reported they are dehydrated at work because they don’t have time to drink.

Despite the findings of the Francis and Kirkup reports, there are significant numbers of midwives, MSWs and student midwives who don’t feel confident in raising concerns about unsafe practice.

In workplaces that that do not take positive action on health, safety and wellbeing, over half (53%) would not be confident about raising concerns.

In contrast, in workplaces that take positive action on health, safety and wellbeing, four-fifths (87%) ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ that they would feel secure raising a concern about unsafe clinical practice.

The RCM is asking trusts to sign up to its Caring for You Charter. The RCM believes that when HoMs and RCM health and safety representatives work in partnership and take action on health, safety and wellbeing it does make a difference, with lower stress levels, better health and wellbeing, and improved care for women and their families.

RCM director for services to members Suzanne Tyler said: ‘When staff are overworked, under intense pressure and struggling to provide the best care, their physical and mental health suffers. This has a negative impact on their ability to work to the highest levels and standards of care and safety decline.

‘This campaign is not just about caring for staff; it is also about enabling them to deliver the best possible care to women, babies and their families. Supportive and open workplaces benefit both staff and service users. Research shows that when staff wellbeing is supported, employee involvement increases, motivation and performance levels increase and outcomes for women improve. Investment in staff is an investment in care for women and their families.

‘This campaign is not just outlining the problems, it is also offering solutions. We are asking trusts to sign up to the Caring for You Charter and to work with the RCM and its health and safety representatives. Ultimately, this will improve staff wellbeing, and help to deliver better and safer care.'

Access more information on the campaign and the full survey results here

Read more on Caring for You in an article in the latest issue of Midwives magazine here.

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