A shortage of full time staff is forcing community midwives to cover shifts in the acute sector senior midwives have said.
The survey of 83 senior midwives carried out by the Royal College of Midwives as part of their submission of evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body for 2015, looked at staffing levels, funding, and community midwifery services.
Sixty five per cent of those surveyed said that on-call community midwives have to be called into acute settings to cover shifts. A third of respondents (35.8%) said that this had restricted the availability of home birth services, while also raising concerns that this would affect breastfeeding rates and the risk of infection and maternal mental health problems.
‘Midwives and maternity support workers are too often keeping services afloat by working long hours, often doing unpaid overtime and missing breaks,’ said Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM. ‘This is not a situation that leads to safe and high quality care for women and babies.’
The survey identified that 29.6% of respondents thought there were not enough midwives to meet demands. The RCM estimates that there is a shortage of approximately 2600 midwives in England. Ms Warwick added: ‘Our maternity services are overworked, understaffed, underfunded and struggling to meet the demands being placed on them. This is deeply worrying for the quality of care women are receiving, and the safety of services.’
The pressures on the workforce have led to midwives struggling to meet the demands of their role. The survey revealed that 31.2% ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed’ with the statement: 'I am able to do my job to a standard I am personally happy with', while 62.3% ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed’ with the statement: 'I am able to meet all the conflicting demands on my time at work'.
Ms Warwick said: ‘All of this shows a system that is creaking at the seams and only able to deliver high quality care through the efforts and dedication of its staff. When services are operating at or beyond their capacity, safety is compromised and mistakes can, and almost certainly will be made, through no fault of the dedicated staff delivering the service.’