The Royal College of Midwives has called on election candidates to take steps to eliminate a national shortage of midwives should they come into power.
This is one of five key “asks” in the RCM’s manifesto ahead of the forthcoming general election on 8 June, which highlights the impact of staffing shortages on care.
“Investing in staff is an investment in the NHS and an investment in patient care”
“All the improvements in the quality and safety of maternity care are dependent on eliminating the chronic national shortage of midwives,” said the RCM document, which was published today.
“The government must sort this out and not just wearily accept it – shortages have consequences,” it stated.
Currently, a lack of investment in midwifery means the safety and quality of care for many women is “simply not good enough”, said RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick as she launched the document.
In its manifesto, the RCM called on candidates to commit to ensuring that all women received the best quality care.
“Women have better outcomes and a better experience of maternity care when there is continuity in the midwives they see and when they have choice and control over the care they receive,” said the document.
“Having too few midwives not only makes it harder to achieve this, it can potentially undermine the safety of care too,” it added.
The manifesto also urged politicians to secure the rights of European Union citizens working in the UK, in the wake of the referendum and ahead of Brexit.
The college highlighted that there were more than 1,300 midwives from other EU countries known to be working in England, as of December 2016.
“Midwives are not required to provide this information to the NHS so the true number will be even higher. We are lucky to have them,” said the RCM manifesto.
Another key area the RCM wants politicians to focus on is “fair pay” for NHS midwives and maternity support workers, saying it was vital when it came to addressing staffing shortages.
Finally, it highlighted midwives’ important role in public health such as supporting mothers to breastfeed, helping women stop smoking and adopt healthier lifestyles.
Professor Warwick said greater investment in midwifes and maternity services was vital to ensuring the best outcomes for women and children.
“We are calling on the government in power after the election to invest in the NHS, invest in maternity services and invest in midwives and maternity support workers,” she said.
“Services need to be given the resources to meet the demands they are facing,” she said. “At the moment, this is not the case and the safety and quality of care that many women receive is simply not good enough.
“We have also seen pay freezes and pay restraint that means our midwives and other NHS staff are significantly worse off, indeed have effectively had a £6,000 pay cut. Investing in staff is an investment in the NHS and an investment in patient care,” she added.