MidwifeThere is strong public backing for industrial action by midwives in their pay dispute with NHS employers, according to a new poll conducted by ComRes.

The poll, commissioned by the Royal College of Midwives, shows that three-fifths (63%) of the British public would support industrial action by midwives, provided that arrangements were made to ensure that any pregnant woman in need of immediate care during the period of the industrial action received care as usual.

The results come as the RCM begins balloting its members in England this week on industrial action over the rejection of the independent NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) recommendation of a one per cent increase for all NHS staff. The RCM is recommending that its members vote Yes to industrial action.

There is also overwhelming backing for a one per cent increase to NHS staff pay, with four in five (80%) polled saying they would support the pay rise.

The public support for a pay increase has significant support across the political spectrum. The poll found that over four-fifths of those who intend to vote Conservative (83%) and Labour (82%) say they would supported the recommended pay award. Almost nine in every ten (89%) Liberal Democrat supporters were in favour, and there is very strong support among those who intend to vote UKIP, with four-fifths (81%) of that party’s supporters backing it.

There is widespread support in every region of England for both a pay rise and for industrial action by midwives. The East Midlands (88%), Eastern England (84%), the South West (84%) and the South East and North East (both 83%) are the most supportive regions for a pay increase.

On support for industrial action the North West (68%) leads the way, with a majority of the public in all regions supporting industrial action.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Midwives deciding whether to vote for industrial action will be reassured that there is wide support for them across the country, with the public backing industrial action.

“Midwives’ pay was frozen in 2011 and 2012. After a one per cent rise last year, midwives are facing another pay freeze this year. Midwives cannot take another year of rising household bills and frozen pay. A one per cent rise, as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body, is affordable. It is the very least midwives deserve for all they do.

“This public backing fills me with hope for our campaign and our ballot and I am sure it will be welcomed by midwives. I do however want to reassure women and their families that they will continue to receive safe care during any industrial action. The woman, her baby and their safety are a midwife’s absolute priority and any action will not change that.”

Full data tables are available on the ComRes website