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Midwifery facing a 'retirement time bomb', says RCM

Royal College of Midwives says number of midwives aged 50 or over has doubled since 2001

The number of midwives aged 50 or over in England has doubled since 2001, a report by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has found. 

It rose from 4,057 in 2001 to 8,169 last year, the RCM says in its state of maternity services report to be launched in Parliament tomorrow. 

The report says last year is believed to be the first year on record when the NHS employed more than 1,000 (1,014) midwives in their sixties and the number aged 65 or over rose from just eight in 2001 to 177 last year.

The growing number of midwives close to retirement is compounding a shortage of midwives highlighted in the report. 

There were 661,496 babies born in England last year, almost 100,000 more than in 2001, and the RCM said this means the NHS is short of around 2,600 midwives.

The college says record numbers of births to older mothers are putting maternity units under intense pressure as midwifery faces a 'retirement time bomb’.

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: ‘What worries me in particular is the retirement time bomb that our report unearths. Not only in England, but across the UK, we are not seeing enough new midwives being taken on.

‘Many older midwives will, of course, be very experienced, and they are able to mentor and support newer, younger midwives. But they won’t be around in the maternity units forever. 

‘We need to ensure enough new midwives are brought in before we lose an increasing number of midwives to retirement. If we put off dealing with it for another year, it will be far too late to do much about it.’

Wales and Northern Ireland saw 10% and 11% rises in the number of births since 2001 respectively.

In Scotland, there was an increase in births last year, with 56,725 babies born, and the number of births higher than a decade ago.

The RCM report also finds the average age of maternity staff in Scotland has increased significantly, with the percentage of staff aged 50 or more rising from 32% of the workforce in 2011 to 42% in 2014.

Read the report here

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