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England faces midwife shortage as birth rate soars, warns college

Thousands of extra midwives are needed to help hospitals cope with the pressure of a rising birth rate, according to the Royal College of Midwives.

New figures show that 813,200 births were recorded in the UK between June 2011 and June 2012 - the highest number since 1972.

This contributed to the fastest population growth in Europe, with the number of people living in the UK rising by 419,000.

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said the growing birth rate meant an additional 5,000 midwives would be needed to provide services for new mothers and their children in England alone.

Professor Warwick noted that the proportion of births to older women was growing much faster than those among younger women.

She added: “This places considerable pressures on maternity services and we are struggling to provide high quality antenatal and postnatal care.”

Despite recent increases in the numbers of midwives, there is still a shortage, Professor Warwick warned.

“Maternity care is the earliest health intervention of all and getting care right for mothers and babies is a vital part of supporting families and building a foundation for good health in later life.”

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the recent baby boom has taken the UK’s total population to 63.7 million, making it the third largest EU country behind France and Germany.

Analysts have attributed the rise to the increased number of women in their 20s and 30s becoming mothers, and a rise in the number of migrant families.

The ONS figures also show that there were 558,000 deaths between June 2011 and June 2012 - 254,400 fewer than the number of births.

A decline in the number of smokers, plus improvements to health treatments for circulatory illnesses, has seen more men living beyond the age of 75, the ONS said.

The number of men aged 75 and over in the UK has risen by 26%, or 422,353, since 2001 to 2,043,034.

According to the figures, the number of people aged 90 and over in the UK has passed half a million for the first time. By mid-2012, there were 513,400 people who had reached that milestone - an increase of 32% from the 388,200 recorded in 2002.

Age UK director Michelle Mitchell said: “Our society is currently undergoing a demographic revolution as more people enjoy a life expectancy denied to previous generations, but this also demands urgent attention from government and local authorities to ensure that services adapt to embrace these changes.”

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