There is a widening gap between the government’s rhetoric on maternity services and what actually happens on the ground, a midwifery leader has warned.
Professor Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said midwives were coping with an increasing number of births and more complex cases and yet had dwindling resources.
And she attacked the government’s overhaul of the health service, saying “several billion pounds will have been wasted on a yet another pointless reorganisation of the NHS”.
Prof Warwick was speaking at the RCM’s annual conference in Brighton.
She said midwives were trying to provide safe, high quality care against an ever rising birth rate, more complex cases, midwife shortages and a squeeze on NHS spending.
She added: “There is a growing disparity between the increasing demands that are made on midwives and the dwindling resources that they have at their disposal.
“This is compounded by a widening gap between the rhetoric about how maternity services should be and the reality that midwives experience on a daily basis.
“When it comes to staffing, the rhetoric is that there are more midwives than ever before.
“The reality in England is that the midwifery shortage is becoming a crisis.
“Yes the number of midwives in England has increased but by nowhere near enough to keep pace with the growth in their workload.”
On funding, she said the rhetoric was that the NHS budget has been maintained and there are no cuts to frontline services.
“The reality, as you will know all too well, is that budgets are being squeezed and services are being cut.”
Health minister Anne Milton said: “It is simply not true that modernising the NHS will cost several billion pounds, that £20 billion is being taken out of the NHS or that spending on maternity services is being cut.
“Far from it - the NHS spent over £125 million more on maternity services in 2010/11 than the previous year and the NHS needs to save up to £20 billion by becoming more efficient so that even more money can be spent on providing high quality front line care for patients, not less.
“There are hundreds more midwives in the NHS than there were last year and we are keeping training numbers at a record high, with over 2,500 places available in 2011/12.”