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Midwives ‘love the work but hate the job’, says maternity review leader

Midwives’ morale levels need to be raised to address staffing shortfalls and deliver improvements in maternity care, the leader of the National Maternity Review has said.

In an evidence session before the Health Select Committee last week, Baroness Julia Cumberlege said that she thought the review’s recommendations for greater choice for expecting mothers could be delivered without substantially more staff being recruited.

However, she said more effort was needed to engage existing staff, with 2,500 registered midwives currently not working on the frontline.

“We know that there are quite a lot of midwives who feel that they are disadvantaged in the way that they are being treated and managed,” she said.

“Too often I hear the phrase, ‘I love the work but I hate the job.’ Something has to be done about reorganising and looking at new ways of care to ensure that women have a safer service, have choice but also that the workforce is happy in the way that it is working.”

She suggested cutting the amount of paperwork midwives have to do would help improve morale.

According to the latest NHS Staff Survey, midwives experience some of the highest rates of workplace stress in the NHS.

Baroness Cumberlege added that although the options were available on the NHS for women to have a greater choice in care, such as whether to have a midwife or an obstetrician, women were having problems accessing them because of a lack of information.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, chair of the NHS England maternity transformation board, told the committee: “It is really important that we do not sidestep the fact that there is a gap and there are issues, and we do need to do more to be able to retain the midwives that we have.

“We need to do workforce planning to ensure that we have the right number for the future”, adding that the workforce could be restructured to include roles such as doulas and midwifery support workers.

In its recent ‘Reshaping the workforce’ report, the Nuffield Trust said that restructuring the health workforce would be better than adding new staff.

In contrast, the King’s Fund said in a report last week that new healthcare roles often fail to deliver efficiency improvements.

However, in the Health Select Committee session, Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said that NHS England currently has a shortage of about 2,600 midwives.

She warned that the shortage could be further affected by government plans to abolish bursaries for nursing and midwifery students, saying this could particularly discourage mature students and students from ethnic minorities.

The RCM is part of a campaign urging the government to keep the bursaries.

(Image c. NHS England)

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AM   12/07/2016 at 12:46

Whilst I agree in essence with everything which Baroness Cumberledge & Ms Marsh state in tackling issues with Midwifery, I hope that in order to try to keep or recruit good 'experienced' Midwives there is the deeper issue of how these hard working people are 'treated' in Trust establishments. The attitudes and bullying tactics which does go on is atrocious and this is what makes staff leave or indeed give up!

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