Midwife Shortages Are Causing A Huge Birth Crisis

Birte Harlev-Lam, Executive Director Midwife at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), told GLAMOR: “The bottom line is that we are short of midwives in the UK, particularly in England where there is a shortage of over 2,000 midwives. Understaffing impairs the provision of secure care.”

She added: “Midwives themselves are desperately concerned that staff shortages are preventing them from providing the care they want. It’s time for the government to wake up and take urgent action. After years of underinvestment in UK maternity services, how can they sit back and watch what is now causing widespread safety concerns?

According to the RCM, things are about to get a lot worse as the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show there were 10,000 more births nationwide from 2020 to 2021. “At the same time, the number of midwives has been falling across the English regions, adding to the general shortage of midwives.”

Harlev-Lam said midwives work hardest “in a system that is against them” and said even “vital training is being postponed” because there are not enough staff on the shift.

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She told GLAMOR that newly qualified midwives are reconsidering their careers after joining the NHS “at breaking point”, while experienced midwives feel compelled to leave “due to the unbearable pressures affecting their physical and mental health”.

She added: “The government can no longer ignore the crisis engulfing maternity services. They owe an urgent response to women, their families and the maternity staff to address the issues now, they cannot allow this desperate crisis to unfold before them.”

This week, over 30 organizations representing the maternity sector signed a letter to government, coordinated by UK charity Birthrights, calling for “urgent and meaningful intervention” to deliver on their 2019 manifesto, the “NHS in” Best Place to give birth to the world” reality.

A spokesman for NHS England told GLAMOR: “The NHS is committed to providing safe maternity services and is taking significant action to improve the care of pregnant women and their babies, including investing £127m this year to strengthen our workforce, to strengthen leadership and increase cot capacity – which comes on top of an annual £95m increase in recruitment and training announced last year.”

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GLAMOR has contacted our new Health Minister Dr. Thérèse Coffey to find out what urgent action the government will take to improve maternity services.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman told us: “We want the NHS to be the safest place in the world to give birth. That’s why we’ve invested £127m, including over £50m to increase the number of staff in maternity and newborn services across the country, £34m for culture and leadership programs and £45m to increase the number of newborn beds in to raise all of England .

“An additional £95m investment has been made to recruit 1,200 more midwives and 100 more midwifery consultants to ensure we have the staff to provide quality care.”

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Like many others, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the principles of the NHS and understand the pressures it is facing, but however committed we are, the current state of the maternity crisis needs to be challenged and we need to see big and visible changes that impact maternity care at all levels. While promises of funding and investment may sound great on paper, are they really getting where they need to be? Is the government really taking the situation seriously?

As women, we are expected to be grateful for the care we receive rather than become apoplectic. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns, make a fuss, stand your ground, fight for your cause.

For a department so vital to a nation’s survival, it’s high time someone listened.

GLAMOR has contacted our new Health Minister Dr. Thérèse Coffey to find out what urgent action the government will take to improve maternity services and is awaiting a response.

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