New report highlights the state of Scotland’s maternity services

By Hollie Ewers on 13 September 2018 Maternity Services State of Maternity Services Report Scotland NHS Scotland RCM Scotland

The RCM has released its State of maternity services report 2018 – Scotland, which reveals the growing pressures faced by midwives in the country.

Increasing obesity levels and age of mothers in pregnancy, as well as a big rise in midwifery vacancies are all contributing to the pressures and demands felt by the midwifery workforce.

The new report says that last year 51% of pregnant women were overweight or obese, and more likely to require additional care and support throughout their pregnancy.

At the same time, the age of pregnant women in Scotland has also increased with 54% of Scottish babies born in 2017 to women in their thirties or forties. Between 2000 and 2017 births to women in their early forties shot up over two-thirds (68%) to 1907 births. As with obesity, older women will typically require more care during their pregnancy. 

The report states that further pressures on services are being affected by a quadrupling of midwifery vacancies in the last five years, rising from 1.3% in 2013 to 5% in 2018. Vacancy rates in NHS Boards in the North of Scotland are particularly concerning, the RCM said. And, despite an increase in the number of younger midwives, concerns remain over the ageing midwifery workforce. The proportion of midwives aged 50 or older jumped from 34% in March 2013 to 40% in March 2018.

The report does highlight some positive developments, revealing how the Scottish Government has heeded the concerns and lobbying of the RCM and has increased the number of student midwives significantly in 2017 and 2018. 

The continuation of bursaries for student midwives has also been helpful in continuing to attract a high number of applicants to join the profession, the report says.

RCM director for Scotland Mary Ross-Davie said: ‘There are some great things happening in our maternity services in Scotland, not least the very ambitious Best Start maternity programme. The Scottish Government has also delivered real increases in the number of student midwives, which we welcome.

‘However, pressures on our midwives are increasing – the care needs of women are rising, while the number of unfilled midwifery posts is also rising. I am still concerned about the age profile of our midwifery workforce, though it is encouraging to see the “green shoots” of higher numbers of younger midwives joining our service. We need to work hard to ensure that midwives choose to stay and work in all parts of Scotland, including in the North and in our most remote communities.’

Mary added that what is important is that the Scottish Government continues to invest in maternity services to ensure they can cope with current and future demand. 

‘The NHS, the Scottish Government, the RCM and others need to keep working together to identify the challenges and tackle them. We should be aiming for our maternity care to not just be among the best in the world, but to be the best,’ she said.

The full report for Scotland 2018 can be read here.