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Number of midwives employed in the NHS is flatlining, RCM warns

An extra 3,500 midwives are needed in the NHS in England but employment rates are flatlining, says head of RCM 
Cathy Warwick

The number of midwives being employed in the NHS is flatlining, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has warned.

On average, each maternity service in England employed just 0.4 new midwives in the last year, the RCM said.

Meanwhile RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick raised concerns that some local areas in England were not prioritising maternity care.

Workforce challenge

Local regions are drawing up sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) setting out how they plan to run services in the coming years.

But analysis of the plans by the RCM concluded that half of the plans either do not mention or include very little detail about maternity services.

The big challenge is that the workforce is under real pressure at the moment, said Professor Warwick, speaking to the house of commons health committee.

The number of midwives being employed in the NHS is ‘flatlining’, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has warned.


RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick Picture: John Behets

On average, each maternity service in England employed just 0.4 new midwives in the last year, the RCM said.

Meanwhile RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick raised concerns that some local areas in England were not prioritising maternity care.

Workforce challenge

Local regions are drawing up sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) setting out how they plan to run services in the coming years.

But analysis of the plans by the RCM concluded that half of the plans either do not mention or include very little detail about maternity services.

‘The big challenge is that the workforce is under real pressure at the moment,’ said Professor Warwick, speaking to the house of commons health committee.

She added: ‘While we are training enough midwives and enough midwives are coming out into the system, the difficulty is that not enough of them are being employed.

‘Flatlining’

‘Although we have been seeing increases in midwifery numbers over the past few years, it is now flatlining.

‘And the number of midwives is actually starting to look as though it’s reducing in our services.

‘I think 19% of heads of midwifery in our last review reported budget cuts.

‘We have done some analysis in the RCM and if you look at the overall increase in midwives being employed, it now boils down to 0.4 midwives being employed per maternity service in the last year.’

Staffing shortfall

The RCM estimates that the NHS in England needs 3,500 more midwives.

Meanwhile, Professor Warwick also talked about the RCM's analysis of 35 of 44 STP plans.

‘It makes us feel that maternity services in those areas are a very low priority,’ she said.

Sustainability

Sarah-Jane Marsh, chair of NHS England’s maternity transformation programme, told MPs that future versions of STPs would see some progress and said there were gaps in the plans submitted last year.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We want the NHS to be one of the safest places in the world to have a baby.

‘There are more than 1,500 more midwives on our maternity units since 2010, and more than 6,300 currently in training, with our changes to student funding creating thousands more training places by the end of this parliament.’


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