United Nations Public Service Day

By Stuart Bonar, Public Affairs Advisor on 23 June 2021 Maternity Services EMA - European Midwives Association

Wednesday 23 June is United Nations Public Service Day. No need to apologise if you missed the news. It probably won’t make the front pages.

But we wanted to tell you about this because it is positive to see the United Nations (UN) honour public service in this way. For more than a year now we have seen just what true public service looks like. It’s healthcare staff the world over tackling the pandemic while continuing to provide health services – like maternity – that cannot be paused while the crisis is tackled.

Midwives and maternity support workers deliver public service every day of every year. But during this current crisis, everybody has been able to see it more vividly than ever.

This isn’t just a British story, of course. We see it the world over, hence the UN is wanting to mark this day, and across Europe we continue to work with fellow public service unions through our membership of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU).

Despite having left the European Union, we are very much united in the many of the issues that  our public services currently face . This day is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the contribution of European maternity staff across the seas but also the European maternity staff who are living and working in the UK and offering invaluable service to the NHS. .

The NHS needs more midwives. In England, the Government itself recently admitted that the health service is short of around 2,000 midwives. As the NHS starts to recover from the intense pressure and demands caused by the pandemic – the biggest challenge for the NHS since it was founded in the 1940s – having enough staff is fundamental. We need to see real action to eliminate that shortage. That is one way in which the UK could honour UN Public Service Day.

And key to attracting and keeping hold of staff is pay and conditions.

On pay, we are working right now with other health unions to secure a significant pay rise for NHS staff. We expect the NHS pay review body to make its recommendations any day now. With inflation already at two per cent and reports at the weekend that it could top four per cent this year, we wait to see what they suggest.

On conditions, we need to see some of the measures brought in to help staff cope with the demands of working in the NHS during the pandemic maintained into the future, particularly those around mental health and wellbeing. It would be a big mistake to start dialling that down now.

It is important too to remember those countries whose health systems are weaker than ours. The Royal College of Midwives continues to speak with them and amplify the experience of maternity internationally. We recently coordinated a joint letter from many organisations to the Prime Minister, demanding he reinstate the British commitment to investing 0.7 per cent of our national income on development assistance – the UN target.

Our country, our continent and our world continue to combat the greatest health challenge in a century. Today is a day to mark the difference made by public service. But tomorrow that service will continue.

Thank you for everything you do.