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11.12.13

Maternity care is ‘at a crossroads’ – RCM

Ministers must “seize the moment of opportunity” on maternity care, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has urged.

The State of Maternity Services 2013 report shows that while last year there were almost 700,000 babies born, data from the first six months of 2013 show a slight dip in births, down by 18,000 compared to the same period in 2012.

But there is growing complexity, as births to older mothers continue to rise faster than other age groups. These pregnancies and births typically require more care and time, the report states.

RCM chief executive Professor Cathy Warwick said: “We are at a crossroads. The government and the NHS must continue to train and recruit more midwives and, if the number of births stops rising, we might be able to reduce and perhaps even eventually eliminate the shortage. Alternatively, if the Government and the NHS choose to exploit what may be a temporary dip in the number of births and slash spending on midwife training and recruitment, they risk permanently embedding the midwife shortage. There is a big opportunity here, but a big risk too. Do we try to eliminate the stubborn midwife shortage, or do we just accept it?

“We are most definitely not out of the woods. Right now, we are still thousands of midwives short of where we need to be, as last month’s National Audit Office report on maternity services found. This is a moment of opportunity. Will it be seized and the midwife shortage brought right down, or will the Government and the NHS take their eye off the ball in the face of a small easing of the intense pressure on our maternity services?

“The solution, if we are to provide good maternity services to women and their families, is to invest in midwives and maternity care on a consistent, long-term basis, not just in this Parliament but over the next Parliament too. Women want and deserve more choice over the care they receive and more continuity of care too.

“Do we want to end England’s midwife shortage? Now is the moment of decision.”

Sue Covill, director of employment services at NHS Employers, said: “Recent changes have helped hospitals and other providers to become more involved in planning their workforces effectively. The 5,000 midwives currently in training will make a substantial contribution to the delivery of high quality care to mums and babies.

“The role of midwives is essential, of course, but maternity care is provided by a wider team and it’s getting the whole mix of staff right that will give the safest and best experience.”

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