One more midwife for every 100 trained

By Stuart Bonar, Public Affairs Advisor on 24 November 2017 Midwife Shortage Midwife Training

For every 100 student midwife places being commissioned in England, the NHS midwifery workforce is increasing by just one single midwife. Read that sentence again, and let it sink in; it is a stark statistic.

Don’t worry if you are a student midwife, by the way. This is most certainly not because midwifery graduates aren’t getting jobs. Indeed, the latest numbers we have from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that 85 per cent of those in the UK graduating from midwifery courses in 2015/16 secured employment as midwives.

The reason is that the number of new midwives flowing out of our universities and into the profession each year is only just making up for the number of midwives retiring or otherwise leaving.

Let me walk you through the numbers. Around 2,600 training places are commissioned in England each year (there were 2,605 places commissioned and 2,603 places filled in 2016/17, for example). Here’s the source for those numbers. And if we look at the very latest workforce figures from NHS Digital, the number of full time equivalent midwives working in the NHS in England was up just 26 in the 12 months to August 2017.

So, 2,600 training places commissioned, 26 more midwives.

One more midwife for every 100 student midwives.

And, again, to be crystal clear, this is not because graduates aren’t getting jobs. They are. This is because those midwives who are joining the service are only just making up for the numbers leaving. The number of midwives leaving NHS employment because they have reached retirement age rose over a quarter in the four years to 2015/16, for example.

It was good to hear the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, tell the House of Commons earlier this month that “we need more midwives.” But these new figures demonstrate the colossal scale of the challenge facing maternity services.