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Royal College of Midwives warns of deepening maternity services crisis

Maternity services can no longer run on the goodwill of midwives, says the Royal College of Midwives as it releases the results a survey of members' views on pay

Maternity services can no longer run on the goodwill of midwives, says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as it releases the results of a survey of members' views on pay.

  • NHS pay review body will review survey's findings and report back to government in spring 2018
  • 61% said they would leave the service in next one to two years, but 80% would stay if pay was increased
  • Value of pay for a midwife at the top of band 6 has reportedly decreased by more than £6,600 since 2010
Midwife
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A total of 2,449 midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) responded to a survey about pay, the results of which form part of the RCM's evidence to the independent NHS pay review body (RB).

The RB makes recommendations to the government on pay for different NHS staff groups, and is expected to report back in spring next year on the 2018-19 pay award.

Around 61% said they were considering leaving the service in the next one to two years, however, 80% of those midwives would stay if their pay increased.

Other results included:

  • 98% felt that their organisation was reliant on their and their colleagues’ goodwill.
  • 89% use some form of credit and the most common method is credit cards.
  • 50% were in £5,000 or more of debt and 31% were in £10,000 or more.
  • 35% agreed with the statement ‘I worry so much about money that it affects my work’.

Seven years of pay restraint

RCM director for policy, employment relations and communications Jon Skewes said: 'Maternity services continue to rely on the goodwill of midwives and the RCM has warned time and time again that is unsustainable. 

'The impact that seven years of pay restraint has had on employment relations between midwives, MSWs and the NHS is now hanging by a thread.

'It is a completely untenable situation which cannot continue – in 2017 the value of pay for a midwife at the top of band 6 has decreased by more than £6,600 since 2010.'

Mr Skewes added that it had 'never been so imperative' for the RB to make a recommendation for a fair pay rise so that existing midwives feel valued and stay in the NHS can be retained.

'A fair pay rise for all NHS staff is the key intervention that could be made now to break the downward spiral of the current staffing crisis.'

Low morale

Midwives working in all four countries of the UK left comments in the survey about the impact that pay has had on their lives.

One midwife in England says: 'It has gone on too long now, when I look at old payslips from eight years ago, I am earning less money now, but the job is more pressurised.

'The cost of living has not been frozen.'

A midwife in Wales says: 'Morale is so low at present and pay restraint just makes us feel even less valued.

'Occasionally I have loaned colleagues money for petrol so they could travel to visits or because they are on call.'

Struggle to make ends meet

In Scotland, another midwife says: 'I've had to move back in with my parents as my salary couldn't make ends meet as a single parent – it's embarrassing.'

Finally, a midwife in Northern Ireland says: 'If we had a fair pay rise it would give midwives a much-needed boost and we could smile again and enjoy our profession like we used to.

'I remember that time so well and miss it so much.'

The Scottish Government recently outlined plans for public sector workers earning under £30,000 to receive a 3% pay rise next year and earlier this month (December), it was announced that the nurses in Northern Ireland would receive the 1% pay rise due for in 2017-18.

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