Yesterday, Jeremy Hunt told MPs, “we need more midwives”. Spot on, Secretary of State.
In a question time for health ministers in the House of Commons yesterday, Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead John Cryer challenged the Government on midwife numbers: “The shortfall in midwives and the financial crisis in the NHS are threatening the safety, quality and sustainability of midwifery services. Those are the words of the Royal College of Midwives. How will the Secretary of State restore the confidence of the RCM and the other professional bodies?”
Responding, the Secretary of State for Health said: “The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need more midwives. We have 6,000 midwives in training, and we have 2,000 more midwives than we had in 2010. It is also important to recognise the progress that is being made. Stillbirth rates were down 14% between 2010 and 2015, and neonatal death rates are down 10%, so there is some really important progress happening.”
It was good to see the Secretary of State point out the improvements to safety made by NHS maternity services too.
He was not quite right on the increase in numbers. The latest figures, for July, show that there were 1,803 more full time equivalent NHS midwives in England compared to May 2010, when the Conservatives returned to government. Also, the rate of increase has fallen dramatically over the course of the decade, with numbers up just 55 in the 12 months to July this year.
But let’s not quibble too much, but instead thank the Secretary of State for being frank and open about the need for more midwives. It is something he has acknowledged in the past too. In response to a question from the Labour MP for Darlington, Jenny Chapman, back in October 2015, he also told MPs: “we need more midwives.”
We agree, Secretary of State, now let’s all work to deliver those extra midwives.