The midwife shortage could be huge if European Union midwives were unable to work in the UK post Brexit, the Royal College of Midwives has warned.
It said England was currently 3,500 midwives short, which could spiral to almost 5,000, if those from other parts of the EU currently in the NHS were no longer allowed to work here in future.
“It will hit them hard and it could be catastrophic for London”
The college analysed official figures from NHS Digital showing that in England the equivalent of 1,192 full-time NHS midwives were from other EU countries.
London, in particular, could be facing a massive midwife shortage if the working status of EU midwives was not addressed by the government in its Brexit negotiations, noted the college.
The RCM also sent a Freedom of Information request to trusts with maternity services in London – where the greatest numbers of EU midwives are currently working.
It found that in the capital alone 16% (674 full-time midwives) of the total midwifery workforce come from other EU countries.
At one trust in central London, 32.2% were from elsewhere in the EU. Outside of London, at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust more than 10% of the midwifery workforce was from elsewhere in the EU.
Jon Skewes, RCM director for policy, employment relations and communications, said: “While we respect the outcome of the EU referendum, our concern is now for our members whose future employment rights in the UK currently remain unknown.
“What we do not want see happen is hardworking midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff paying the price for Brexit by losing their EU employment rights, and possibly losing their jobs,” he said.
Unions attack ‘ill-informed’ bursary reform plans
He warned that if overseas midwives from the EU were not allowed to remain maternity services would be “hit hard” and “it could be catastrophic for London”.
“To lose over 1,000 midwives will impact hugely on an already overstretched and struggling maternity service,” said Mr Skewes.
He called on the government to clarify the working situation for NHS staff from other EU countries post Brexit “sooner rather than later”.
The RCM was one of 29 organisations that announced last week that it had formed a coalition to lobby for the status of EU staff working in the health and care sector.
The RCM’s chief executive, Cathy Warwick, will highlight how the loss of midwives from other EU countries will impact on the continuity of midwife led care across the UK during a speech at this year’s Trades Union Congress in Brighton tomorrow.