The financial and budget restraints currently being placed on maternity services in the face of rising birth rates paint "a disconcerting picture", the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has claimed.

As part of the evidence the RCM has to present to the NHS Pay Review Body, they have surveyed Heads of Midwifery (HOM) across the UK. The RCM claims that the senior midwives reported experiencing falling budgets and increased pressure to cut staff, despite the rising birth rate. It called the results of its survey "extremely worrying".

The survey found that:

  • 37 per cent of respondents felt they would have to cut staffing levels in the next 12 months
  • 60 per cent said their establishment (their staffing levels plus vacancies) were not enough to cope with demands on the service
  • 66 per cent said increasing birth rates were increasing the demand for services
  • 79 per cent felt increasingly complex cases were also contributing to the problem of demand
  • 31 per cent said they would have to reduce services in the next 12 months
  • 79 per cent reported long-term vacancies, and of these 67% were long-term vacancies.

Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the RCM, said: "These results are deeply disturbing given the steeply rising birthrate and increasing needs of women.  Overworked and understaffed maternity units are unsafe maternity units.

"Until now, maternity staffing numbers have simply failed to keep pace with the ever-rising number of births, but now we face the prospect of maternity staff, including possibly midwives, actually losing their jobs. That is what heads of midwifery, who run maternity units up and down the country, are telling us, and that worries me very much."

Posted by Robert Mair

 Midwife cuts rising birthrate