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'Stress affects almost 50% of England's midwives'

1 March, 2016

'Stress affects almost 50% of England's midwives'

Nearly half of midwives in England suffered work-related stress in the previous 12 months, according to the latest NHS Staff Survey.

The survey of nearly 300,000 shows a snapshot of staff views in 2015 and has just been published by NHS England.

It finds that stress is a problem for many of the 5268 midwives who responded to the question, with 46% saying they had suffered in the past year. This compares to 36% of health visitors and 33% of paramedics.

The results also reveal that 69% of midwives had felt pressure in the last three months to attend work when they were feeling unwell.

And 43% of them had witnessed potentially harmful errors, near misses or incidents in the last month alone.

A third (32%) of midwives had experienced bullying, abuse or harassment from NHS staff in the previous 12 months.

Much of this is unreported with only 37% saying that they reported the most recent experience.

The results are more positive for the overall staff engagement score. This represents staff’s perceived ability to contribute to improvements at work, their willingness to recommend the organisation as a place to work or receive treatment, and the extent to which they feel motivated and engaged with their work.

The overall engagement score has increased since 2011 reaching a peak score of 3.83 in 2015.

Over half of all staff (58%), who responded to the survey, reported that they often or always look forward to going to work, with 74% of staff feeling enthusiastic about their job.

RCM director for policy, employment relations and communications Jon Skewes says: ‘These latest NHS staff survey results are shocking but not surprising, midwives day in, day out face enormous pressure due to understaffing and an increased birth rate. Midwives are the backbone of the NHS, they work tirelessly to deliver the highest quality care to women and their babies, often without fair overtime payments and to have almost 4000 midwives suffering work-related stress is deeply concerning.

‘We hear daily from our members of their frustrations and fears about delivering a high-quality safe service with inadequate levels of staffing at their units, this is undoubtedly one of the primary causes of work-related stress. The RCM fears this type of worry and stress will deepen as we remain 2600 midwives short in England,’ says Jon.

‘In June this year the RCM will launch a health, safety and wellbeing campaign, which we hope will provide greater advice and better support to midwives and maternity staff on how best to cope with the daily pressures they face, such as work-related stress. The campaign also aims to raise awareness among employers of the long-term value in promoting wellbeing among maternity staff,’ he adds.

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