Midwives speak truth to power in Scotland 

on 12 May 2023 Midwifery Midwives Midwifery Workforce Maternity Services NHS Government MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Scotland RCM Scotland Scottish Government NHS Scotland Scottish Maternity Services

Royal College of Midwives (RCM) members from across Scotland were able to take their concerns and experiences of maternity services right to the heart of Holyrood earlier this month. 

Over 30 midwives including midwifery educators and researchers, maternity support workers and student midwives, met a range of Scottish MSPs at an RCM event at the Scottish Parliament. The room was abuzz with conversation and debate as midwives put front and centre for politicians the issues they face, and solutions to solve them.  

“Events like this are such an amazing opportunity for us as students to attend, to not only share our passion for midwifery but also highlight the importance of investing in the maternity services in a clinical sense but at educational levels also,” said student midwife Isla Innes-Love who was at the event. “It was really encouraging to see MSPs engaging with us and listening to what we have to say and hopefully this becomes something we can really push forward to ultimately make a difference to the care we provide women and their families.”  

Jackie Baillie, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care and Drugs Policy, and Scottish Labour Deputy Leader, sponsored the event and delivered a keynote address. Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care, Michael Matheson also spoke at the event, with many other MSPs, including Scottish Liberal Democrat Willi Rennie, Scottish National Party former Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Foysol Choudhury from Scottish Labour, in attendance. 

Scotland’s professor emeritus Mary Renfrew also spoke at the event. She shared eloquently the evidence of the impact midwifery has on the lives of women and babies and future population health she is an exceptional example of the value of investing in academic careers  

“This was a great opportunity for MSPs to hear from frontline maternity staff about the challenges they are facing every day to deliver safe and high-quality care. They also heard about the importance of midwifery education and developing our future educators and the challenges our midwifery educators are facing to educate the next generation of midwives, and about the importance of midwifery research,” said Jaki Lambert, the RCM’s Director for Scotland. “Getting all these areas right, with the right numbers of staff and the right funding, is crucial to ensuring Scotland’s women get the safest and best possible care.”

This was an important opportunity for those in practice power to be able to talk directly to politicians about the great work they do. They were also able to tell the people in power about the pressures they face to keep services safe for women, babies, and their families, and about the challenges around educating the next generation of midwives in practice and in Scotland’s universities.    

Dawn Cameron is a midwifery educator from UWS and reflected on the experience. “This was an excellent platform for the coming together of key stakeholders in midwifery and maternity services, to raise the profile of future development of midwifery. Such opportunities provide a springboard to place midwifery high on the agenda in health and education arena’s, supporting investment in developing a workforce to deliver safe maternity services for women and families.” 

The RCM was also highlighting what needs to be done to ensure Scotland’s maternity services can meet the demands they are facing now and into the future. This was outlined in the RCM’s five-year plan for midwifery published last year. It was also an opportunity for midwives to take directly to politicians the concerns they expressed in an RCM survey of its members in Scotland last year. A staggering half of respondents to the survey said they rarely have enough staff to provide safe care for women.  

“We achieved a lot with the event and put the problems and challenges facing maternity services and the issues facing midwives right in front of the people who can help to solve them,” said RCM Scotland Director, Jaki Lambert. “We’ll be following up with MSPs to keep up the pressure and to keep the vital importance of investing in midwives and maternity care high on the political agenda.” 

To read the RCM’s five-year plan for midwifery in Scotland visit scotland-5-year_digital.pdf (rcm.org.uk).

The RCM’s 2022 survey of its members in Scotland can be read at scotland-survey_report_2022_digitalfinal.pdf (rcm.org.uk), and see also Mounting Scottish maternity service staffing shortages spark safety fears says RCM.