In the RCM annual survey, midwives cited staffing levels and dissatisfaction of the level of care they could offer mothers and babies as the reason for wanting to leave their job. Low pay also played a role in their decision.
Figures quoted in the Times show that there were the equivalent of 22,090 midwives currently working within the NHS, 435 fewer than in January this year.
One midwife interviewed described staffing at a 'tragic' level and having to 'beg, borrow and plead' for enough staff to cover shifts.
Gill Walton, the RCM's chief executive, said that despite the Government's promise to improve NHS maternity services, it risks ignoring the essential ingredient of providing the right staff in the right place to ensure proper care.
The RCM has long highlighted the increasing risk to mothers and babies of underfunding maternity care, which is at crisis level. Maternity units are regularly forced to close temporarily or to divert women to other areas because of lack of staff.
Certainly many of the birth injury cases that the medical negligence team deals with all too often involve a gap in staffing levels and a lack of training that lead to catastrophic errors in basic care such as interpreting CTG traces that indicate when a baby is in distress. Such errors in reporting and reacting to clear signs of problems then result in delays in delivering a baby, with tragic results.
During the pandemic, it is estimated that NHS midwives delivered 1,800 babies a day. The NHS has apparently invested £96.5m in maternity services this year, funding 1,200 new roles plus additional training and career support for midwives. The RCM is clearly in a position to raise the alarm when things are simply not working – and, yet again, it has been forced to do so.
Read about our birth injury claims.
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