Our pay campaign for members in England continues says RCM giving evidence to NHS Pay Review Body

on 23 February 2023 Midwifery Midwives Midwifery Workforce Maternity Services NHS Government MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Pay and Agenda For Change

Members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) were in London yesterday giving oral evidence about the real, lived experience of midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB). The PRB is due to give its recommendations for the 2023/24 pay award on 1 April.

This was the same day that the Government’s evidence to the PRB was published - weeks late and containing a recommendation that 3.5% was an affordable pay rise for NHS staff. This would amount to another real terms pay cut for midwives and MSWs and would do nothing to address the workforce crisis in maternity services, says the RCM.

The RCM made clear that it remains in dispute with the Westminster Government over the inadequate pay award for 2022/23, and that direct negotiations are required to resolve it. Yesterday’s announcement that the Government would enter pay talks with the RCN was a welcome sign that the Government is no longer ignoring the seriousness of the crisis in the NHS and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on NHS staff. However, negotiation must be with all health unions.

RCM Board members Keelie Barrett, an MSW and workplace rep, and Pauline Twigg, a midwife and workplace rep, along with midwife and RCM representative Shani Woodbridge addressed the PRB panel. They spoke about the impact that staff shortages across maternity services are having on staff morale and of the stress, anxiety, and burnout that is prevalent and growing among their colleagues.

They also outlined the longstanding and worsening financial hardship maternity staff are facing after over a decade of pay freezes and pay stagnation. The TUC estimate that the average midwife has seen around £56,000 in lost earnings since 2008 because of Government pay restraint.

“I felt like the PRB heard our voices. I was pleased to support our members and to be talking about morale, how low it is within maternity services at the moment, and how our staff need to be valued with a restorative pay rise,” said Pauline after the evidence session.

RCM Executive Director, Trade Union, Dr Suzanne Tyler and Employment Relations Director Alice Sorby accompanied Keelie, Pauline and Shani and also gave evidence to the PRB panel. They emphasised the need for a consolidated and inflation proof pay rise for midwives and MSWs to make up for years of pay freezes and pay stagnation. This is needed to stave of the mounting crisis in maternity services they said. They pointed to the sharply rising midwifery vacancies - which increased from of 3.8% to 10.9% between 2019 and 2022 - as evidence of the difficult maternity services are facing in keeping and recruiting staff.

“This is an opportunity to raise the issue of the real financial hardship affecting midwives and MSWs, and also the impact the shortages are having on the quality and safety of care,” said Alice Sorby. “We were able to tell the PRB about the stresses and strains that midwives and MSWs are facing every day, and that things have never been worse.”

The RCM also made critical points to the PRB around issues affecting those at both ends of the pay bands. This was to make the point that support workers on the lowest Agenda for Change bands have in the past fallen scandalously below the national minimum hourly wage.

Staff in higher pay bands can also see their pay fall if they get promotion from band 7 to 8a due to the loss of overtime pay and less unsocial hours payment. This means there is little incentive to seek promotion to managerial roles. The situation many matrons at the bottom of Band 8a who were required to pay NHS Pension Scheme contribution arrears for the period April to September 2022 that exceeded the value of the pay award when it was implemented seriously damaged morale of those in leadership roles.

“It was great to speak to the PRB in person. They were really engaged and hopefully we can win a fair pay deal for the NHS,” said Keelie Barrett. Her experience was echoed by Shani. “I think from some of the nods from them they recognised that what we were saying they’ve heard before. The PRB panel seemed really receptive to things we had to say,” she said.

For more information on the RCM pay campaign in England visit the RCM’s England Pay Hub at England and Wales - NHS pay award and next steps (rcm.org.uk)