Commenting on an item on the Today programme this morning on an unpublished report from the West Midlands Perinatal Institute including a survey of community midwives, Louise Silverton, Deputy General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "We have not seen the report but I am deeply concerned about what I have heard.  

"The RCM has been saying for a long time that it is worried about the workload and the amount of time that community midwives have to assess women in the antenatal period. Many midwives are being pushed to reduce the amount of time they spend with women and the implications of this were outlined by Professor Jason Gardosi on the Today programme. He explained that in a significant number of cases there was substandard care and different management would have been expected to make a difference to the outcome.

"If midwives do not have sufficient time to assess and support women things including identification of risk factors can get missed. Women also may feel that they have an issue they want to discuss, but do not want to bother the midwife because they can see how busy they are. This is wrong and potentially disastrous. The reports of the huge caseload that community midwives in the region are having to cope with fills me with alarm.

"It is also a concern that the West Midlands was reported last week as planning to reduce the number of midwives trained in the region. This report would seem to highlight the folly of this.

 "I suspect that this situation is not confined the West Midlands.  We have got to challenge the short term financial expediency of inadequate midwife numbers and the potential and sometimes disastrous effects of this. We need to see more midwives in the NHS to cope with the increasing demands being placed upon maternity services, for the sake of the women and babies who these overstretched and overworked midwives care for.

The Today programme item is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/b006qj9z/console and is 50 minutes and 27 seconds into the programme.

Louise Silverton