RCM welcomes government’s commitment to increase NHS midwives

The RCM has welcomed the government’s commitment to increase NHS midwives and maternity support staff.

The government yesterday announced plans to train more than 3,000 extra midwives over four years, starting with 650 more midwives in training next year. It also said it would create a newly-defined maternity support worker role and introduce new training routes into midwifery as well as aiming to ensure the majority of women would receive care from the same midwives throughout their pregnancy, labour and north by 2021.

RCM chief executive and general secretary Gill Walton said: “This is very long overdue acknowledgement by the government that England’s maternity services need more midwives. The RCM has been campaigning to get successive governments to eradicate the midwife shortage for well over a decade. This is recognition that this government have been listening to us.

“This announcement must be welcomed. It will come as some relief to NHS midwives who have been working incredibly hard, for many years, with increasing demands and inadequate resources.

“This is the start of a journey that will enable midwives to begin moving to more innovative ways of caring for women. It is also a positive step towards safer services.

“The commitment to more continuity of care is good news because the evidence is clear this is the best way to provide the safest and highest quality care for women and their babies. The priority for all maternity services is ensuring every woman has a named midwife during pregnancy and one-to-one care in labour. This is what maternity services are currently struggling to provide universally and consistently and this is why the new staff will be so crucial.  When services are confident of this then they can move on to greater continuity of care for women.

“Whilst we welcome the commitment to continuity of care, it is ambitious. The additional midwives who start training next year won’t be qualified midwives working in our maternity services until 2022. That will make a difference and it will begin to have an impact on the workload of midwives, but it will not transform maternity services right now. It will take seven or eight years before all of the new midwives announced today will be actually working in our maternity services. This will be offset to some extent by the extra maternity support workers (MSW) promised. This will help make the staffing overall feel better, though we need to see details about how many more MSWs there will be.

“Simply training more midwives is only half of the problem. The other key issue is ensuring that when these midwives qualify they actually get jobs in the NHS. We must get a commitment from the government and trusts to employ them. Trusts are going to need an increase in the money they get so they can employ the new midwives.

“The recognition of the importance of maternity support workers and the commitment to invest in their training is also very good news.  Again this is something the RCM has been fighting for and working towards for many years.

“We applaud the announcement but would urge some patience. Until these midwives and maternity support workers are actually working maternity services will continue struggling to provide existing care where the focus is rightly safety first.

“Midwives everywhere can now be confident that the government is serious about supporting maternity care. If these midwives are trained in the numbers announced. And, if they get real jobs in our NHS then there’s every reason to believe we’ll see the transformation of England’s maternity services in the coming years. We look forward to working with the government to make this very, very welcome commitment a reality.

“The agreement on pay reached this week between the health unions and the government will also help to support this announcement. It will help our maternity services to retain the midwives they have and it will aid the recruitment of more into the profession. “

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