Nearly 5,000 additional midwives are required to cope with a fertility boom which has resulted in the highest number of births in almost four decades, it has been claimed.
There was a 2.4% increase in live births in the last year, resulting in a total of 723,165 in England and Wales – the highest figure since 1972, according to Office for National Statistics figures.
The fertility rate increased to 2.00 children per woman in 2010, up from 1.96 the previous year.
The Royal College of Midwives pointed out that the 22% increase in births in the past decade had coincided with the shortage of midwives increasing from 2,800 to 4,700. Meanwhile, the increasing complexity of some births demanded more of midwives’ time.
Royal college general secretary Cathy Warwick called on prime minister David Cameron to honour his 2010 promise to create 3,000 more midwives.
Ms Warwick said: “The issue of midwife numbers needs to be on the agenda with this government and these figures show that it needs to be right at the top of that agenda.
“Without central direction it is simply too easy for hard-pressed NHS organisations to save money by cutting midwifery jobs. This is a false economy and government backing is needed to ensure this does not happen.”
Meanwhile, in a separate set of proposals, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists called for more midwife-led units to be created so women with low-risk pregnancies could give birth outside of hospitals.
The body’s report, High Quality Women’s Health Care: A proposal for change, said increasing demand for services meant current configurations were unsustainable.
College president Anthony Falconer said: “In maternity, we need to co-ordinate services so that women receive the best care in the right place.
“This will mean more midwifery-led units and fewer consultant units so that the most specialist care can be concentrated around the clock.”