Royal College of Midwives calls for long-term investment in NHS staff

Mother holding tiny foot of newborn baby

Additional money is being put into NHS maternity services for more midwives, doctors and resources - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

There must be long-term investment in the NHS and its staff to prevent the service haemorrhaging its people, says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), responding to a report on staff burnout from the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee on Tuesday (June 8).

The report says that burnout is widespread in today’s NHS and an excessive workload due to understaffing is a key driver. This must be tackled as a priority, says the report, by ensuring the service has the right number of people, with the right mix of skills. 

Alice Sorby, Employment Relations Advisor at the RCM, said: “The pandemic has amplified the pressure that midwives and other maternity staff are under and exposed the gaping hole of understaffing and insufficient resources that besets maternity services and the wider NHS. This is simply a failure of successive governments over decades to invest long-term in the NHS, its staff and their pay, and this is pushing many of them out of the door.”  

A survey of midwives in November carried out by the RCM found that eight out of 10 (83%) do not believe their NHS Trust or Board has enough staff to operate a safe service. Services were stretched almost to breaking point, with 42% reporting that half of shifts were understaffed, and a third saying there were very significant gaps in most shifts. It also found that seven out of 10 (71%) were considering leaving the profession, with over a third (38%) seriously thinking about it.  

Alice Sorby added, “There are signs for optimism with additional money being put into NHS maternity services for more midwives, doctors and resources. However, this does not help our exhausted and demoralised midwives, maternity support workers and their NHS colleagues right now. They must be supported to recover from the massive efforts they have made throughout the pandemic – during which time, it’s worth remembering, maternity services never closed. The Government must also once and for all acknowledge the value of NHS staff and step-up investment in them to give them hope for the future. They must be reassured that their working lives will not be a constant battle to do their very best within a system that does not support them to do it. Now is the time.”

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