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RCM leader sets out New Year ‘wish list’ for maternity services

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Cathy Warwick, the chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, has issued a wish list of her hopes for England’s maternity services in 2016.

Among them are for the government to commitment to end the midwifery shortage, a rethink of its plans to remove bursaries for student midwives and moves to ensure better pay.

The others on the five-point list are to “ensure” women using maternity services get continuity of care and for recognition of the “vital” public health work that midwives perform.

Professor Warwick’s wish list in full:

  • Government to re-think plans to remove bursaries for student midwives in England. Removing the bursary and making student midwives pay tuition fees could leave midwives mired in debts of over £63,000, a sum that the first graduates would still be paying back in 2050. This plan risks the future supply of qualified midwives.
  • End the shortage of midwives in England. The country is short of 2600 full time midwives. This is a shortage that has been persisting for over a decade.
  • Ensure women using maternity services get continuity of care. The evidence about the impact of this on the safety and quality of care that women receive is strong and increasing. The RCM hopes that the upcoming findings of the National Maternity Review in England will stress the importance of this.
  • Government must unshackle and respect the recommendation of the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB). RCM members had to strike to get the 1% pay award recommended for all midwives, maternity support workers and nurses by the independent PRB last year.
  • The Government and the NHS as a whole recognise the vital public health work that midwives perform. This is in many areas including smoking cessation, tackling obesity and supporting women with mental health problems.

Professor Warwick said she hoped 2016 would “herald some step-changes in maternity services and how they are delivered”.

She noted that the national maternity review in England, which expected to publish its findings this year, could be a “wonderful agent for change” and that she was “looking forward to seeing the proposals that come from it”.

But she added: “It will also be a challenging year. England remains 2,600 full time midwives short of the numbers needed.

“The government has also got to show that it values the staff working ever harder in the NHS,” she said. “They can show this by unshackling the PRB and respecting and implementing their decisions on pay.

“What I do know is that in 2016 our midwives and maternity support workers will work just as hard as they always have to support and care for mothers, babies and their families,” said Professor Warwick.

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