The Department of Health has said it will prioritise a workforce planning review of nurse and midwife numbers.
The move follows lobbying by organisations such as the Royal College of Midwives, which has been highlighting major shortages in midwifery. There are also recognised shortages in school nursing, health visiting, critical care, theatres and neonatal nursing.
In a statement last week, the DH said it had asked the NHS Centre for Workforce Intelligence “as a priority, to undertake an in-depth review of the demand and supply issues and workforce modelling for the nursing and midwifery workforce, working with all relevant parties”.
RCM general secretary Cathy Warwick welcomed the new priority given to the review. She said: “This has been in the pipeline for some time. It will be a detailed piece of work and we have been involved in discussions.”
Professor Warwick said it was vital the review looked at ensuring the right ratios of experienced midwives to newly-qualified, or recently-qualified staffs, were in place. In addition she said it should focus on leadership in the midwife workforce.
The DH also announced that there would be a total of 2,490 planned midwife training places – for both degree and 18 month diploma courses – available in England in 2011-12. The number totalled 2,493 in 2010-11.
Additionally, the DH said since May 2010, the midwife workforce had increased by 296. But the RCM said this would not go far enough to secure the extra 4,700 extra midwives it believes are needed to ensure safe maternity care and cope with increasing demand on services.
Prime minister David Cameron pledged to increase midwife numbers by 3,000 in the run up to the election last year. But last month the government told Nursing Times it had yet to set a target (see news, ‘Government confirms not increasing midwife recruitment target’).
At the time a DH spokeswoman said: “We do need more midwives, but, rather than picking random numbers, our policy will be based on evidence.”
Have you signed our petition to ensure nurses have a seat on consortia boards? Follow @Aseatontheboard on twitter follow for all the latest campaign news!