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Midwives struggle with baby boom

The quality of maternity care, overstretched staffing levels and low pay are the issues that most concern midwives, reveals a survey published by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

The survey also showed that most midwives felt that working today as a midwife is more challenging than it was five years ago.

Midwives responding to the survey say that the baby boom is having an impact on their work. Thirty-one percent say their workload has increased, which means they have less time to spend with the women in their care. Consequently, this affects the quality of care women are receiving with 38% of midwives saying that the quality of care has been negatively impacted by the baby boom. Almost two-thirds of respondents said that these issues are adversely impacting their job satisfaction.

Along with staffing levels, pay is cited as one of the midwives' key concern. Over two-thirds of respondents said that they want the RCM to focus on this over the next three years.

There remains a "retirement time-bomb" in the midwifery profession, with nearly half of all midwives set to retire within 10 years, which is a real concern in the current climate of climbing birthrates. The RCM estimates that at least 5,000 more midwives are needed to make the government's maternity plans achievable.

Dame Karlene Davis, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "Maternity services for all women could, and should, be so much better. We acknowledge that most women are happy with the service they get, but too many are unsatisfied and frustrated.

"Midwives' pay is not keeping pace with prices, staff numbers are not keeping pace with the birthrate, and investment is not keeping pace with the demands on the service.

"We are going to see a haemorrhage in the profession if the conditions midwives work in are not addressed. Give midwives the tools and resources to do their job and they will deliver a service of which this country can be proud."

Royal College of Midwives

Are you a midwife? What are the issues that most concern you? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I am a midwife and work in a busy Birmingham maternity unit. Patient numbers are always increasing and hospital stay is increasingly shorter. This creates a literal production line. The national midwife shortage doesn't help. My time is taken with 'processing' discharges, which must occur as soon as possible in order to free up beds for our unit's overbooking of patients. If patients can not be collected early then they have to leave their beds and wait until collected in our 'discharge lounge'. We very rarely see sore nipples - our patients are not with us long enough! Our patients still get good care. My job is however not very satisfying as the volume and turnover of patients is so great. It seems management is interested in as much patient footfall as possible to increase revenue. Our concerns and anxieties are low on the agenda. How are we going to change this around when the job no longer offers satisfaction? How will we encourage new blood into the profession? This job is all I know, but if I had my chance again I would do something else." - Alison, Birmingham