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Pandemic ‘brutally exposed’ underinvestment in NHS, midwives warn



More investment is needed in the NHS and other public services, after the Covid-19 pandemic ‘brutally exposed’ decades of neglect, the RCM has said.

The warning came as part of a motion from the RCM, passed without opposition at the Trades Union Congress on Sunday. It also highlighted staffing challenges facing the NHS – including a shortfall of around 2,000 full-time midwives in England. ­

In its motion, the RCM said more investment is the ‘minimum required to put right a decade of austerity and underinvestment’, which has led to staffing shortages, concerning retention rates and burnout. The pandemic has ‘accelerated and exacerbated’ these challenges, it added.

Maternity services that have been ‘stretched to the limit’ could be putting staff and pregnant women at risk, it suggested, with an RCM survey last year finding 83% of midwives and maternity support workers do not think their workplace has enough staff to ensure safe services.

But the RCM stressed that bringing more midwives into the service ‘is the equivalent of running the taps in a bath while the plug is out’ if the Government does also improve staff retention.

In a survey last year, the RCM found 71% of midwives said they were considering leaving the profession, while 38% were seriously thinking about it.

Jon Skewes, executive director for external relations at the RCM, said: ‘The RCM and other health unions and organisations have been warning about serious staff shortages and the need to invest more in the NHS for a decade or more.

‘These warnings have gone largely unheard and the impact of this has been brutally exposed by the pandemic. It is only through the incredible dedication, innovation, and skill of staff that these challenges have been met as well as they have,’ he added.

The RCM said it had also made an amendment to a Chartered Society of Physiotherapy motion on Covid recovery and rehabilitation. This calls on the TUC Congress to campaign for staff wellbeing and recovery, including access for staff to mental health and psychological wellbeing services. 

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