Rising levels of complexity in pregnancy, midwife shortages and financial constraints threaten to overstretch the maternity workforce, a report from the Royal College of Midwives has found.
According to the report, The gathering storm: England’s midwifery workforce challenges, the number of births in England rose in 2015 and were up 100,000 on 2001. Additionally, increases in the number of births to older women and increasing levels of obesity in pregnancy are creating complexities that require more time and attention from staff.
England’s maternity services are buckling under the demands being made on them; this cannot continue,’ said Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations and communications at the Royal College of Midwives. ‘The Government has got to ensure England’s maternity services have the staff and resources to provide safe, high quality care. We are pointing out the problems and offering solutions and the Government has to listen to them.
The situation is being further exacerbated by chronic shortages in the midwifery workforce. According to the RCM, England is 3500 full time midwives short of the numbers it needs, while a further 1000 midwives are approaching retirement age. Furthermore, the uncertain status of EU citizens in the wake of the Brexit vote means that the workforce could lose a further 1300 midwives.
‘Without the dedication and commitment of its staff and their determination to go above and beyond, NHS maternity services would be severely compromised, the safety of services would be in question and quality would fall,’ added Mr Skewes. ‘It is in the hands of the Government to do something about this gathering storm, but it needs doing now.’