The Royal College of Midwives is to launch a new initiative to encourage its members and the public to warn it of cuts to local maternity services and staffing problems, Nursing Times has learnt.
RCM head of policy Sean O’Sullivan said a new website – due to go live in the next few weeks – would add to information the union is currently gathering from its local officers and representatives.
“The basic idea of the site is so we can monitor what’s happening on the ground and ensure that what we would see as inappropriate savings measures aren’t happening,” he told Nursing Times.
The tactic mirrors one that has been deployed successfully by the Royal College of Nursing’s Frontline First campaign, to track the impact of the NHS’s £20bn savings drive on the nursing workforce.
Mr O’Sullivan highlighted that nationally the number of training places for midwives had been maintained, while for nursing it had been cut.
He said the college saw that as “recognition” that action was needed to address the rising birth rate and resultant pressure on maternity services – the RCM itself believes the NHS needs to recruit 5,000 extra midwives to address the national shortage.
But he added: “Making a national pronouncement is one thing, but what happens at a local level can be quite different. Where trusts are under great financial pressure there is a risk they will go in for expedient measures.”
He warned that while trusts might not be laying off staff or closing units, the cumulative effect of cuts like reducing the number of visits to a new mother, or the length of visits, could still be significant.
“We know that in some places the staffing of, say, postnatal wards is something that concerns us at the moment,” he said. “One of the things we are looking at is the staffing of postnatal wards, and whether we are seeing any evidence of those wards being understaffed.”
The website will be badged under the RCM’s Protect Maternity Services campaign.