Responses given by midwives to the NHS staff survey have revealed worrying trends, including high stress-related sickness levels and that 82% of midwives have worked additional unpaid hours in the last 12 months.
The analysis of the 2012 NHS Staff Survey results by the Royal College of Midwives also found that 47% of midwives have been unwell due to stress in the last year.
The Royal College of Midwives’ chief executive Cathy Warwick acknowledged that the findings were “deeply disappointing” and “worrying”, particularly in relation to the amount of additional unpaid hours being worked.
She added that although midwives love their job and want to serve mothers, babies and families they are not being given the time to deliver high quality care. Ms Warwick called for an additional 5,000 NHS midwives in England to ensure all midwives got breaks and felt valued and appreciated.
The survey results overall show that midwives compare badly to other NHS staff in a number of indicators. At least some additional, unpaid hours were worked by 82% of midwives, compared with 58% of other NHS staff. This was up from 71% in 2010.
There was disagreement from 71% of midwives that there were enough staff at their organisation to carry out their job properly, compared with 48% of all NHS staff.
In a more positive finding, 45% of midwives claimed that they were paid for some additional hours, which is an increase from 40% in 2010 and 2011.
Jon Skewes, RCM director for policy, employment relations and communications, agreed that midwives were the backbone of the NHS.
But he added: “They (midwives) consistently work considerable unpaid overtime to give mothers and babies the care that they need and deserve. This survey shows that their motivation to deliver good care is high, but their morale is low.”
The 2012 NHS staff survey, which was open to 259 NHS organisations in England, received a response rate of 50%.
Of the 203,000 NHS staff that were invited to complete the survey, involving a self-completion postal questionnaire, only 101,169 staff responded. This rate was down from the 54% that responded in 2011.
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