Claims that there is a shortage of 4,500 midwives in the NHS were made in error, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said.
NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson told a committee of MPs last week that the health service required 4,500 more midwives, saying "you can't just turn midwives on and off".
However, Mr Nicholson had meant to tell the Public Accounts Committee that the NHS had a shortage of health visitors, rather than midwives.
The error came to light at Commons question time when Labour MP Paul Blomfield raised the issue, highlighting Prime Minister David Cameron's "firm and passionate pledge" to recruit an extra 3,000 midwives.
"Last week the Chief Executive of the NHS told the Public Accounts Committee that the NHS is now short of 4,500 midwives," he told Mr Lansley.
"Will you tell the House when you intend to bring forward plans to honour the Prime Minister's pledge - or can we take it that it's just another Conservative broken promise on the NHS?"
The Health Secretary replied: "Well I don't wish to embarrass the Chief Executive of the NHS but actually he told me he made an error.
"He was referring to health visitors, not midwives, when he was talking to the Public Accounts Committee.
"We are short of health visitors precisely because through the life of the last government, the number of health visitors was continually going down and we are going to recruit more health visitors."
Mr Lansley added: "We share actually the commitment of the last Labour government to increase the number of midwives and to do so not least because of the increase in the number of births."
"Health visitors are also qualified and have often been midwives before undertaking further training to qualify as a Health Visitor. Health Visitors visit ladies from 10 days after birth when they are discharged from the care of the Midwife" - Modern HV, Chelmsford
"This is misdirection - qualified Midwives who work in the community visit ladies after the birth. Are these Midwives being reclassified as health visitors? I doubt they will be happy about this!" - Simon Warner, Pontefract