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Senior midwives predict staffing cuts

Predicted cuts to staffing levels and expectations of budget cuts paint a 'disconcerting picture' of the state of maternity services, says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

As part of the evidence to be submitted to the NHS Pay Review Body, the RCM surveyed Heads of Midwifery (HOM) across the UK.

Over a third (37%) of the HOMs that responded said they anticipate they will have to cut staffing levels in the next 12 months. 60% also said that their current staffing levels are not enough to cope with the demands on their services. 

Both the increase in the number and complexity of births are contributing to the growing pressures on midwives, the survey said.

"These results are deeply disturbing given the steeply rising birthrate and increasing needs of women," said Cathy Warwick, General Secretary of the RCM.

"Overworked and understaffed maternity units are unsafe maternity units."

"Until now, maternity staffing numbers have simply failed to keep pace with the ever-rising number of births, but now we face the prospect of maternity staff, including possibly midwives, actually losing their jobs. That is what heads of midwifery, who run maternity units up and down the country, are telling us, and that worries me very much."

"Many" HOMs surveyed claim they have had to reduce services, such as home births, in the previous year. Nearly a third (31%) say they will have to further reduce services in the coming 12 months. 

Despite the worry over cuts to staffing levels, the majority of HOMs in the survey (79%) reported they have job vacancies. Furthermore, over two-thirds of these (67%) were long-term vacancies - a post vacant for over three months.

The survey claims this "flies in the face of the Government's commitment to provide choice for women around childbirth."

The RCM has said it is concerned that the "continuing high levels of vacancies are putting even more pressure on maternity staff and services." 

Royal College of Midwives