Healthcare staff need ‘time to recover’ after a ‘brutal’ year on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic, Scottish midwifery leaders have warned the next Government ahead of the country’s election on 6 May.
As part of a series of five recommendations for the next Scottish Government, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in Scotland said the extra mental health support for healthcare and midwifery staff introduced since the pandemic, such as the National Wellbeing Helpline, must be continued and expanded in the long-term.
The pandemic has been ‘brutal’ on healthcare staff who need time and support to recover from the damage to their mental and physical health, with many still suffering from Long Covid, it added.
It also called for midwifery training to be offered at more Scottish universities. Just three institutions currently offer programmes – Edinburgh Napier University, Robert Gordon University and the University of the West of Scotland – which leaves some areas struggling to recruit, it said.
John Skewes, executive director for external relations at the RCM, said ‘it is time to step up and really invest’ in a ‘demoralised and exhausted workforce’ who have put in a ‘monumental effort’.
He continued: ‘This has been a really tough year for the NHS and the people using it as it creaked under the weight of pandemic demands. It has also been a remarkable year because of how its staff and the service responded. Now is the time to invest to make it fit for the future.’
The RCM in Scotland also highlighted that the pandemic has exposed the ‘starkly existing inequalities’ hitting vulnerable women and those from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
It called for more specialist midwives to support disadvantaged women and multidisciplinary teams to for women from socially deprived areas, and for work to be commissioned to understand the experiences and outcomes of black and Asian women using NHS maternity care in Scotland.
In addition, it said the Scottish Government must ensure buildings housing maternity and midwifery care are ‘fit for purpose’ to allow women more choice over where to give birth.
Mr Skewes added that tackling deprivation ‘goes way beyond maternity and the wider NHS’, but that ‘maternity is a very good place to start improving the health of the nation, reduce inequalities, and indeed, save lives that should not be lost’.
The RCM’s five midwifery action areas for the Scottish Government
• Tackling social inequality – by introducing more specialist midwives and multidisciplinary teams for women with severe and multiple disadvantages, and from socially deprived areas.
• Delivering the best maternity care for all the people of Scotland – by commissioning work focused on experiences and outcomes from maternity services, particularly of black and Asian women, and introducing targets and action grounded in equality.
• NHS staff need to recover from the pandemic – by continuing to develop services to support the wellbeing of all healthcare workers, including workplace cultures and staff retention.
• Birthplaces that are fit for the future – by introducing fit for purpose buildings that allow women more choice over here to give birth, including in purpose-built midwifery-led units.
• End Scotland’s midwife shortage for good – by offering midwifery education in more universities and a more flexible approach to training introduced.