RCM urges Pay Review Body to consider bigger picture and staff crisis as it submits evidence

By Gemma Murphy on 24 January 2022 Midwifery Midwives RCM Member MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Pay NHS Pay Review Body Pay and Agenda For Change Staffing Levels NHS Staff Government

Decent pay should be seen as part of a solution for recruitment and retention issues. This alongside the impact of understaffing in maternity services, and the current cost of living crisis faced by members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), forms part of the RCM’s evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB)for the 2022/23 pay round.

The RCM’s evidence highlights the issues and challenges blighting the profession, in particular recruitment and retention which the College says is linked to pay. Results of an RCM member survey in October revealed why midwives and maternity support workers are considering leaving the profession. Among the top three reasons given by RCM members was that they were unhappy with their pay, in addition to concern about poor staffing levels and worries that they could not deliver the quality of care they wanted, and women deserved.

The findings of a recent survey of Heads of Midwifery (HoMs) from around the UK has also been included in the RCM’s evidence, with many respondents describing how the recruitment of midwives into the profession has become increasingly difficult.

Commenting, the RCM’s Executive Director for External Relations, Jon Skewes, said:

“Last year’s 3% pay award was inadequate. It left our members feeling undervalued and eroded morale at a time when services were under immense pressure. This year the RCM is calling for an inflation-proof restorative pay increase to ensure staff can cope with the rising and rapidly fluctuating cost of living.

“Fair pay is integral to recruitment and retention. Currently, we see a vicious cycle of midwives and MSWs unhappy with staffing levels and leaving, further exacerbating shortages and making it tougher for those remaining in the service. A significant pay rise has never been more crucial and may encourage those who are thinking of leaving to stay and those who have left to return. Increasing pay and changing working conditions may just do that.”

The RCM says that this year’s pay award must be enough to absorb the impact of the impending increases to pension contributions and enough to off set the planned rise to National Insurance contributions which come into place from 1 April.

Jon added:

“The 2022/23 pay settlement needs to be restorative and outplace inflation for it to have a real impact for our members. The PRB’s recommendation has an opportunity to do this and address the most significant workforce challenges maternity services have faced in a decade. Within our submission today we have urged the PRB to carefully consider all the evidence we have presented and reminded them to judge what we have shared in context of the cost-of-living crisis and ongoing pandemic.”

In addition to its own evidence, today the RCM and 13 other health unions representing over 1.2 million NHS staff submitted its joint evidence to the PRB calling on ministers to act urgently with a significant wage boost. All unions say this would help halt the growing exodus of exhausted staff from the NHS.  

Over the coming months, the RCM will publish the full results it's Heads of Midwifery survey and they will be discussed in more detail on the RCM’s Pay and Pensions podcast in February. In March representatives from the RCM will give oral evidence to the PRB and answer further questions on why members deserve an inflation-proof pay rise.

In the meantime, the RCM says it will continue to shout loudly about pay. They have reminded the Government of its power to act outside of the NHS Pay Review Body independent process and are calling for urgent action to prevent more immediate workforce losses.