This website is intended for healthcare professionals


Overworked midwives could lead to mistakes

Burnt-out midwives could cause medical errors, finds a new survey by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM)

Burnt-out midwives could cause medical errors, finds a new survey by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

Over half of midwives and maternity support workers who responded to the survey said that they had seen an error, near miss or incident that could have hurt service users in the last month.

Half of the respondents also 'strongly agreed' or 'agreed' with the statement: 'I am worried about making a mistake at work because I am exhausted.’

RCM director for services to members Suzanne Tyler said: ‘When staff are overworked, under intense pressure and struggling to provide the best care, their physical and mental health suffers. This has a negative impact on their ability to work to the highest levels and standards of care and safety decline.'

Almost half of respondents said they felt stressed every day or most days. The most common reasons for stress were workload (78%), staff shortages (76%) and not enough time to do their job (65%).

The survey also revealed that many respondents were going without breaks, food and drink and were working very long hours, with only a fifth taking their entitled breaks.

The survey comes as the RCM launches a major campaign, Caring For You, which aims to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of midwives and maternity support workers, in order for them to provide high-quality care for women.

‘This campaign is not just about caring for staff; it is also about enabling them to deliver the best possible care to women, babies and their families. Supportive and open workplaces benefit both staff and service users. Research shows that when staff wellbeing is supported, employee involvement increases, motivation and performance levels increase and outcomes for women improve. Investment in staff is an investment in care for women and their families,' said Ms Tyler.

‘This campaign is not just outlining the problems, it is also offering solutions. We are asking Trusts to sign up to the Caring for You Charter and to work with the RCM and its health and safety representatives. Ultimately, this will improve staff wellbeing, and help to deliver better and safer care.'

The survey questioned midwives, student midwives and maternity support workers around their health, safety and wellbeing.