The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has hit out at David Cameron, saying that he should reinstate his pre-election pledge to get 3,000 more NHS midwives in post.

In response to a question asked in Prime Minister's Questions, Cameron claimed 620 more midwives are in post, but the election promise should no longer stand as the birth rate is not climbing. However, Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said such an assertion was "bizarre".

She said: "Before the last election David Cameron pledged to recruit an extra 3,000 more midwives in the NHS in England. That was music to our ears here at the Royal College of Midwives. Then, as now, the NHS was thousands of midwives short, and this was just what we wanted and needed to hear from a would-be prime minister.

"Once David Cameron was safely inside Number Ten however the pledge was dropped. The excuse was that the number of births was no longer rising. This is bizarre in the extreme given that in 2010, the latest year for which we have figures, the number of births in England was actually at its highest level for 40 years.

"Again, when challenged at Prime Minister's Questions today he brushed aside any suggestion that his pre-election pledge should be honoured, saying there are 620 more midwives. There are more midwives, but there are also many, many more babies being born and midwife numbers are not keeping pace. Whilst it is true that the Government has maintained student midwife numbers for two years, newly qualified midwives are not getting jobs because of trust cutbacks.

"In October last year the RCM conducted a survey of newly-qualified midwives and found that almost a third had not been able to find a job, despite there being a shortage of nearly 5,000 midwives in the UK. Out of the midwives who had managed to find a job only half were offered a permanent, full-time position.

"For too long maternity services have been denied the resources they desperately need. England is in the midst of a baby boom. David Cameron should reinstate his personal pledge for 3,000 more NHS midwives and crack on with the job of delivering them."

The RCM is calling for 5,000 more midwives in England, and has an e-petition running here.

Posted by Robert Mair on 3/2/2012