'Midwives are the only registered professionals that can provide midwifery care and cannot be replaced by nurses’ says RCM

on 10 November 2022 Midwifery Midwives RCM Pay

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has expressed its deep concern about the growing trend of deploying nurses in maternity services. There is a UK-wide shortage of midwives that has led to alternative sources for the maternity workforce being explored, but using nurses to fill these gaps is short-sighted.

While the college understands the deepening maternity staffing crisis, women and their families should be cared for by midwives and maternity support workers who have the relevant knowledge and skills.

In this statement the RCM recognises the valuable work undertaken by nurses in areas such as theatre and recovery which enable midwives to focus on their role, however nurses are not qualified to replace midwives to provide midwifery care.

Nurses are required to complete a short course midwifery programme to practise as a midwife. Locally-developed training courses for nurses in maternity services are not an appropriate substitute to this.

The RCM believes that:

  • The midwife, supported by maternity support workers, should be the only registered professional to provide midwifery care.
  • Midwifery and nursing are separate professions with separate standards for education. Nurses must undertake a short course midwifery programme to demonstrate they have the knowledge and skills required to practise as a midwife.
  • Employing nurses to work in maternity blurs the role boundaries between nurse and midwife and there are no proficiencies in the NMC Standards of Proficiency for registered nurses relating to midwifery care.
  • Nurses can provide nursing care in specialist roles, in theatres or recovery but they cannot and should not provide midwifery care which is outside of their scope of practice.

Commenting, RCM Director for Midwifery Policy and Practice Sally AshtonMay said:

“The RCM has for many years highlighted that maternity services are understaffed but drafting in nurses to fulfil the role of the midwife won’t solve the problem. Years of underfunding by the Government has led to this shortage and resources are needed to grow the midwifery workforce through better pay and working conditions.

“The RCM believes that the midwife, supported by maternity support workers (MSWs), should be the only registered professional to provide midwifery care. Midwives and MSWs are appropriately educated and, in the case of midwives, regulated to deliver safe and knowledgeable, midwifery and maternity care.

“The RCM can only support nurses’ involvement in maternity care in very limited circumstances and where they can work within their scope of practice. For example, theatre nurses supporting care during caesarean births can support midwives to focus on midwifery care.

“All women need maternity care provided by appropriately educated midwives to ensure the best outcome for both the mother and baby.”

For further reading, see this blog by General Secretary Gill Walton.