Giving birth in the UK is now seen as “critically unsafe” as protests erupt around the country to highlight the serve shortage of midwives.
March with Midwives held vigils in 50 towns and cities across the UK at 14:00 GMT as a response to the The State of the World’s Midwifery 2021 report. This report was published by The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and found that in the UK, 57% of midwives were looking to leave the profession in the next year. RCM said because of unsafe working conditions, lack of funding and reasonability overload midwives believe “they can't deliver safe care to women in the current system”.
March with Midwives have four demands to improve the professions: listen to all staff and service users and their advocates; fund emergency retention of staff; support students to enter training and finish their courses and reduce demands on staff.
“This is a genuine national emergency which impacts every level of society. It is clear that maternity services in the UK are in crisis. Giving birth in the UK, a high-income country, is becoming critically unsafe. This is unacceptable,” said Chantelle Thornley, March for Midwives organiser.
MarchWithMidwives Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marchwithmidwives
However, for those unable to participate in the vigil The Maternity and Midwifery forum 'Midwives Voices' has been publishing experiences from midwives and students as an online protest:
“The pay is awful considering our role and responsibilities. My monthly take home pay is a little more (£50 a month ish ) than it was 16 years ago my role and hours remain the same however responsibilities and demands on me have massively increased.”
“Burn out is rife in midwifery, the pressure over the last 18 months on all staff has been horrific… All grades of staff are exhausted including the managerial teams, Heads of Midwifery are getting the majority of this pressure with no additional support from their own organisations or the regional chief midwives.”
“I’m a 3rd year student midwife, about to qualify, and pretty much every shift the midwives are saying that there isn’t enough staff and they’re (rightly so) worried that it isn’t safe. We recently had a meeting with [managers] and their response to the concern about a lack of staff was: if people would take up the bank shift we are advertising we would have more staff on shift. However, in my eyes there shouldn’t be any bank offered. There should be enough staff to cover the workload and bank shifts should only be used in cases of sickness or maybe maternity leave etc, not as a standard!”
As a response to the vigils a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: 'We are committed to patient safety, eradicating avoidable harms and making the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth.”
"Midwives do an incredibly important job and we know how challenging it has been for those working during the pandemic," she said. "There are more midwives working in the NHS now than at any other time in its history and we are aiming to hire 1,200 more with a £95m recruitment drive.”
However, Thornley believe while this response shows a drive to get midwives into work it “does nothing to improve their working conditions and it’s about getting midwives to stay in the job which is the problem.” The RCM estimates that the UK is already short of 2,500 midwives and with the high percentage of current midwives wanting to leave maternal care will suffer is nothing is done to improve conditions.