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Midwives warn of boom and bust

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has warned that England is facing a baby boom that will put massive strain on the NHS, just as budgets for maternity services are being cut back

The RCM says that the number of births in England this year will rocket to 700,000 – a level last recorded in 1971.

“The baby boom is restarting with renewed vigour,” RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said in a statement.

“We are already at birth numbers that haven’t been seen for at least a couple of generations, probably not in the working life of any midwife practising today. Today’s midwives simply have never seen anything like it. The demand this is placing on the NHS is enormous.”

The RCMcalculates that England is short of 5,000 full-time equivalent midwives (FTE), and that Wales is short of over 150 FTE midwives.

Evidence of the impact of this shortage is clear, the RCM pointed out. A recent poll ofover 2,000 midwives, conducted by the RCM, found that 89% did not feel able to give women all the care and support they need. Another recent poll, of mothers, conducted by the Bounty Word of Mum panel, found that around half would have liked more time with their midwife.

The 2012 Income Data Services staff survey of midwives across the UK, found that 19 out of every 20 midwives reported that in the last 12 months staff shortages had occurred “frequently” or “sometimes”. As a result, 87% of midwives responding to the same survey said they “frequently” or “always” worked more than their contracted hours.

The RCM said: “Just as the baby boom is being reignited, NHS maternity services across the country are being cut back. In a recent survey more than a quarter of UK heads of midwifery (HOMs) report that their budget has been cut in the last 12 months.”

Cathy Warwick commented, “What is so frustrating is that there is a clear need for more midwives. We have record-breaking birth figures, and we need all the midwives we can get. We’re training midwives, but we’re not recruiting them. That is a sad waste of all their time and effort, and a waste of taxpayers’ money too. We have to stop throwing away the talents of these young midwives and recruit them into the service. They are needed, and it’s an utterly false economy not to bring them into the NHS.”