The rise in midwife numbers is happening "despite not because of the Prime Minister callously ditching his pre-election pledge" according to Royal College of Midwives general secretary Louise Silverton.

An additional 896 midwives were in post in November, compared to March 2011, the Conservatives have said.

This equates to a rise of nearly five per cent - but still falls far short of the government's election promise to get an additional 3,000 midwives in post or education.

The Government appeared to rush out these figures in reaction to former Unison official June Hautot's harranging of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley earlier this week (watch ITN news clip).

Yet Health minister Simon Burns was quick to point out: "Despite Labour's constant scaremongering, these figures are clear proof that the NHS is moving forwards under the Coalition.

"Labour doubled the number of managers, tied up doctors and nurses in red tape, and left behind a £20 billion black hole in the NHS budget. We are changing that by cutting NHS bureaucracy, increasing investment and making sure that more money gets straight to the frontline."

However, Silverton has hit back, suggesting the increase in midwives are in spite of cuts, and not down to any particular Conservative strategy.

"The numbers of midwives may well be up - that's thanks to NHS Trusts responding to both the rising number and the increasing complexity of births," she said.

"The NHS was, in 2010, short of around 4,700 full-time midwives. We will need to wait for the official 2011 birth figures to come out to get a more up-to-date assessment of the current situation. If births are rising faster than midwife numbers then, regardless of this rise, the shortage of midwives will be getting worse, not better."

Click here to add your name to the RCM's e-petition calling for 5,000 more midwives.

Posted by Robert Mair on 22/2/2012, picture courtesy