More midwives are needed due to the rising birth rates, the Royal College of Midwives has said.
The organisation claims that the current number of midwives is not sufficient to cope with the birth rate - which has increased by 2.4 per cent this year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - and could mean safety is compromised.
The figures put forward by the ONS are the highest in 40 years, and are set against a midwife shortfall of nearly 5,000.
It is also at odds with David Cameron's promise to deliver 3,000 more midwives.
Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the RCM, said: "The Government has committed to protecting student midwife training places, but this is only for one year and does little good if there are not jobs for those midwives to go to.
"The issue of midwife numbers needs to be on the agenda with this government and these figures show that it needs to be right at the top of that agenda. Without central direction it is simply too easy for hard-pressed NHS organisations to save money by cutting midwifery jobs. This is a false economy and government backing is needed to ensure this does not happen.
"All the reports on maternity services show that there is a direct link with midwifery staffing levels and the safety of services. Late last year I said I have real fears that the safety of maternity services was being compromised by the shortfall in midwife numbers; these new figures add even greater weight to that fear.
"Midwives are working harder and doing more with less and maternity services and the quality of care is suffering. Action is needed by this Government and I appeal to David Cameron to accept what the figures are telling him and to honour his promise. Failing to do so is a disservice to midwives and more importantly, a disservice to the women and babies those midwives care for."
Posted by Robert Mair on 15.7.11 Send your comments on this article to: firstname.lastname@example.org