Does the UK need more midwives?

September 15, 2011

Health and Fitness

Image by Erling A

The Royal College of Midwives is claiming that there is a chronic shortage of midwives in England.

According to the RCM, there has been a 22% rise in birth rates over the last 20 years, but not enough new midwives have been recruited to deal with the higher numbers.

In addition to more births, the RCM also claim that births are becoming more complicated.  Today, more obese and older women are choosing to have children and need extra help when they go into labour.

Ideally, the RCM want 4,700 extra midwifes across England, but they are claiming the Prime Minister is reluctant to pledge more numbers.

While there is a shortage across the country, some areas are worse affected than others. For example, the North East only needs 91 more midwives, while the South East requires an extra 1,015. Meanwhile, the East Midlands and East regions are worst affected, with a midwife shortage of around 41%.

These shortages mean that women are restricted in their choice of where and how they can give birth. Cathy Warwick, RCM General Secretary, explains: “This is a real problem in England. We believe women should have the same choice over giving birth wherever they live. Once you get to really critical shortfalls, maternity services won’t be safe.”

The charity Action Against Medical Accidents, AVMA, is also really concerned about the situation: “Having a baby should be the happiest time in a couple’s life, but failure to deal with this problem is all too often turning it into a tragedy,” said AVMA chief executive Pater Walsh, “Maternity services should be the NHS’s first priority for improving patient safety and having enough trained midwives is an absolute must.”

However, it isn’t bad news everywhere. There are currently no shortages in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health are also claiming that the number of midwives has risen by 17.7% in the last ten years and a record number of midwives are currently being trained. However, with rising birth rates and more complicated labours, are they doing enough?

Do you think the UK’s midwifery system is coping? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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