Urgent need for more midwives

MORE than 600 extra midwives are needed in the region to cope with an emerging baby boom, health professionals have warned.

John Howard

MORE than 600 extra midwives are needed in the region to cope with an emerging baby boom, health professionals have warned.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said a big increase was needed to ensure that woman were able to have one-on-one care with a single midwife throughout their pregnancy.

The professional and trade union organisation said the Government proposal for an extra 160 midwives - outlined in last week's East of England NHS consultation document Towards the Best, Together - was “woefully inadequate”.

There were 2,541 midwives working in the east of England last year - compared to 2,692 in 2006.

The RCM said the region's maternity services were facing a number of key challenges in the coming years, including dealing with a rising birth rate, more complex pregnancies, and staff shortages.

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By next year, the Government has pledged to provide one-to-one midwife care for all women, but the RCM said most maternity units in the east do not have enough midwives to provide such care.

Pat Gould, the organisation's team manager for the eastern, London and south eastern regions, said: “Faced with a rising birth rate and an increase in more complex births, it is a gross understatement to say that 160 midwives are needed.

“With an emerging baby boom, we need, at a conservative estimate at least, 610 more midwives in the region.

“How can we expect them to cope when we are in the midst of a baby boom and their workload is racing ahead of staff numbers?

“Midwives are struggling to provide the one-to-one care promised by the Government, and the birthrate is set to carry on rising.

“Across the country we are really beginning to see the quality of maternity care being compromised by poor staffing levels.”

She added: “We also need trusts in the region to make maternity services a priority, so that mothers and babies get the service they need and deserve.

“Morale among midwives is low. We want to see midwives valued and cherished and rewarded in their pay for their skill and dedication. The challenge for the trusts in this region is to make maternity services a priority and show that this service really does matter.”

Neil McKay, chief executive for the NHS East of England, said: “Clinicians from across the region have come together with patients and stakeholders to say this is our vision of a better future for our NHS.

“The vision, whilst recommending change, also delivers stability for staff and local people, clearly stating that there is a sustainable future for 17 acute trusts in the region all continuing to operate accident and emergency and maternity services.

“This vision is based on cutting edge clinical evidence and is grounded in reality. And, it is deliverable.”