March with Midwives campaigners demand urgent action on maternity ‘crisis’

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Watch: 'March with Midwives' protest in Parliament Square as campaigners call for more funding

Campaigners have called for the “crisis” in maternity care to be addressed as a “national emergency”.

Supporters of a March with Midwives event were asked to gather in towns and cities across much of the UK on Sunday.

Vigils were due to take place in England, Scotland and Wales with gatherings planned for locations including London’s Parliament Square, Birmingham and Manchester.

The organisation, which describes itself as a grassroots movement, said it is urging the Government to act now to tackle staffing shortages and safety in maternity units.

The group said it has four demands for politicians: to listen to all staff and service users and their advocates; fund emergency retention of staff; enable all qualified midwives who are willing to work and support students to enter training and finish their courses; reduce demands on staff.

The March with Midwives steering group said: “It is clear that maternity services in the UK are in crisis. Giving birth in the UK. a high-income country, is becoming critically unsafe. This is unacceptable.

Campaigners said it was now “critically unsafe” to give birth in the UK due to a staffing shortage (PA)
Campaigners said it was now “critically unsafe” to give birth in the UK due to a staffing shortage (PA)

“Where we have women, birthing people and babies at risk; their families, communities and countries become sick. This is a genuine national emergency which impacts every level of society.

“We call on the UK government to implement urgent crisis management and resources. Government promises are not being kept and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Maternity must take responsibility for their silence and call for immediate action.”

Royal College of Midwives (RCM) executive director for external relations, Jon Skewes, backed the vigils, referencing a survey they did which suggested more than half of midwives are looking to leave their jobs.

He said: “For years, maternity services have been operating with too few staff and inadequate resources.

“NHS Trusts and Boards have relied on the goodwill of staff, and their genuine love of what they do, to maintain services – but staff are reaching the end of their tether.

“Last month, we published a survey that showed that 57% of midwives are looking to leave – and the biggest group among them are those who have only been working for five years or less. The UK and national Governments have to do more, not only to train and recruit new midwives into the NHS, but to retain the ones we have.

Data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) showed that the number of nurses and midwives leaving the professions has risen in recent years (PA)
Data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) showed that the number of nurses and midwives leaving the professions has risen in recent years (PA)

“Staff are frankly exhausted, many feel like they have nothing left to give – and services are suffering as a result. We’re grateful to March with Midwives for highlighting the work we have been doing to get politicians and policy makers to pay attention to this untenable situation.”

Earlier this month, data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) showed that the number of nurses and midwives leaving the professions has risen.

Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC chief executive and registrar, warned more departures could follow without further efforts to tackle the pressures on both occupations brought on by the pandemic.

The NMC said the latest data showed that the overall number of people quitting the register has increased for the most recent period for the first time in four years.

The organisation’s mid-year registration data report showed that a total of 13,945 people left between April and September, compared with 11,020 in the same period last year.

The last time the total number of leavers was higher for the same six-month period was in 2017, the NMC said.

Campaigners in central London on Sunday  (PA)
Campaigners in central London on Sunday (PA)

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