I joined midwives in our NHS to march on Parliament this month and highlight the emergency in UK maternity care. Most people in modern Britain owe our lives to a midwife but failures to address chronic staff shortages and invest in maternity services now leave them under incredible strain.
Midwifery services are at breaking point, with shortages of more than 3,500 midwives across the UK. For every 30 midwives that train to enter the profession, 29 are leaving or never entering the workforce. 60% of midwives surveyed last year were considering quitting their jobs. Up to 30% of all mothers rate their birth as traumatic. This is an unacceptable level in a wealthy country like the UK and reflects the chronic under-resourcing of our health service.
As the Royal College of Midwives itself has stated: “Not a day goes by that we don’t hear of a maternity service having to close temporarily, suspend services or divert women to other maternity units just because there simply aren’t enough midwives. This can’t continue because we know it compromises safety and means women don’t always get the safe positive pregnancy and birth experience that they should.”
A year on from last year’s ground-breaking demonstrations, nothing has changed. The Royal College of Midwives will ballot in Scotland, England, and Wales on industrial action this Autumn. Early indications suggesting there is a genuine appetite for a strike. It doesn’t need to be this way. All midwives want is the resources to do their job safely and provide care. It’s time for the Government to close the staffing gap and bring forward the necessary funding to give midwives, mothers and parents the level of care they all deserve.