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Maternity services ‘gain one midwife for every 25 in training’

Report warns that in England the number of midwives leaving due to retirement or lack of flexible working is offsetting recruitment

Maternity services in England gain just one midwife for every 25 people who enter midwifery training, according to a report that warns services are spiralling into crisis.


The Royal College of Midwives report says retention issues are compounded by a shortage
of younger midwives. Picture: iStock

The report by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) highlights the scale of the recruitment and retention crisis facing maternity services across the UK.

More than a third of NHS midwives are nearing retirement age. In Scotland and Northern Ireland two in five are in their 50s or 60s, in England and Wales, the figure is around one in three.

For every 25 people who enter midwifery training in England, the net result is just one new midwife. This is because the number coming into the profession is offset by those leaving due to retirement, family commitments or a lack of flexible working.

‘Brink of collapse’

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: ‘A vast proportion of our midwives are close to retirement. We’re lucky to have them, they are doing great work every day, but it’s an inescapable fact that they will soon take retirement. That will challenge our maternity units and put the whole system potentially on the brink of collapse.’

This ‘retirement timebomb’ is compounded by a shortage of younger midwives – the number aged under 50 in England has fallen since 2010, while the number over 50 has risen.

The removal of the student bursary and uncertainty surrounding the status of EU nationals working in the NHS has added to pressure on the service, the report notes.

The annual State of Maternity Services report also notes a number of birth trends. These include the continuing trend in England for more babies born to women aged 30 and over than to those below this age, recorded every year since 2010.


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