A discussion regarding the nation’s shortage of midwives is set to take place in London at the National Federation of Women’s Institute’s AGM today.
RCM president Professor Lesley Page and health policy professor Nick Bosanquet are poised to debate the issue at the Royal Albert Hall, and it is thought that 5,000-plus WI members will attend to vote on a resolution which has been set out in this statement:
“There are chronic shortages of midwives. The NFWI calls on the government to increase investment in the training, employment and retention of midwives in England and Wales to ensure services are adequately resourced and are able to deliver a high standard of care.”
Professor Page said: “Whilst the number of midwives has been rising, the number of babies being born has been rising faster - and will continue to rise faster. We need to keep up the pace of recruitment of midwives. We need to increase the number of student midwives.
“The cost of living is up. Spending is down. Whilst we might not quite all be in this together, most of us are. But if there is one group that should be spared its contribution to the cost of getting this country back on its feet, who shouldn’t have to suffer, it is surely babies. They are truly blameless and innocent. Investing in midwifery and more midwives will lead to better outcomes for pregnant women and give mothers and babies the best possible start in life.”
Opposing the motion is Professor Bosanquet, of Imperial College, who said: “We need to consider whether it is likely to be practicable to remedy shortages through increasing numbers of staff and investment in initial training. We need to look for steps that will help improve the quality of care in the here and now.
“Investment in training to raise quality is a long-term process. Rush training programmes tend to lead to reductions in the quality of training and to higher dropout rates. It takes time to train teaching and mentoring staff so that they can give positive support to students who are facing new challenges from the much higher proportion of high risk births.
“Realistically new midwives are needed to replace many midwives who are retiring over the next 10 years; and overall looms the reality of funding constraints.”
“The WI can play an important role in adopting local maternity units and showing appreciation and support. Sometimes the positives are swamped by negatives and the sense of risk. The more that midwives can gain a sense of support from the local community, the more there are will be security about quality of care.”