milibandEd Miliband and his party must back up its promise of 3,000 more midwives by tackling the spiralling stress levels currently forcing thousands of NHS professionals to leave the service each year, according to a Birmingham City University expert.

“We don’t just simply need more midwives, their working environment needs to be improved to stop so many leaving the profession,” said Alison Edwards, senior lecturer in Midwifery at Birmingham City University - the largest provider of qualified health and social care professionals to the NHS in the West Midlands region.

The Labour party launched its manifesto today, pledging an extra £2.5bn-a-year Time to Care fund for the NHS. Ms Edwards urged caution on Labour’s commitment especially in regards to one-to-one midwife care, warning that patients should not be given promises that cannot be met.

“Many midwives work part-time, yet the stress and sickness rates are still very high. Nearly a third of sickness absence in the NHS is due to stress and the same amount of midwives leave the profession within 10 years of qualifying. So many midwives have such hectic workloads that they’re working for free and over their contracted hours," she added.

“Women having a designated midwife is actually very old news and has been on the on the table for years. Many women do see the same midwife in the antenatal and postnatal periods already, but midwives don’t always rotate into the labour areas. If a woman’s labour lasts for a number of shifts then naturally they’ll see different midwives, so Miliband’s pledge of one-to-one care won’t always work.”

The Time to Care Fund pledges to more 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more family doctors and 5,000 more home-care workers alongside increasing the number of midwives.

There are also plans to repeal the Health and Social Act as finances for the investment are generated through a mansion tax, a levy on tobacco firms and better integration between ambulance services and NHS 111.

Commenting on the overall package being offered, Anita Charlesworth, Chief Economist at the Health Foundation, said: “Whichever party forms the next government will have to ensure the NHS gets a minimum of £8bn in funding to close the predicted funding gap in the health service.

“Our recent analysis Hospital finances and productivity: in a critical condition? is a stark reminder of the huge effort that will be needed to find efficiency savings and productivity improvements on the scale required if funding growth is to be kept to the absolute minimum of £8bn. NHS hospitals have only improved efficiency at an average rate of 0.4% a year over this parliament. This is substantially below previous estimates and the 2-3% set out in the NHS Five year forward view.

“The financial performance of NHS providers in England has deteriorated sharply since 2013, from a net surplus of £582m in 2012/13 to a net deficit of £789m at the end of Q3 of 2014/15 and despite an expected under-spend from commissioners of £197m, the NHS is projected to overspend by £626m by the end of 2014/15.”

To find out more about the details of the manifesto visit www.labour.org.uk/issues/detail/nhs-time-to-care-fund/