Record number of midwives quit due to stress at work for fear for the safety of pregnant women
- Analysis of NHS figures shows a total of 300 midwives will have left the NHS by 2021/22
- A record 551 midwives resigned last year due to a lack of work-life balance
- There is a shortage of 2,000 midwives, according to the Royal College of Midwives
The number of midwives is reaching dangerous levels that could endanger lives as data shows that for the first time in a decade, more staff are leaving than the profession is entering the workforce.
With record burnout and leave, NHS Digital’s 2021/22 figures show that nearly 300 more staff are leaving midwives than are employed, with 3,440 leaving and just 3,144 coming in.
Analysis of the data showed that a record 551 resigned in 2021 due to a lack of work-life balance.
The latest figures for May show that pregnant women have the equivalent of 21,685 full-time midwives in England – 551 less than a year earlier.
Midwives working in NHS maternity wards typically work 12-hour shifts, but many work longer hours with no extra pay to cover staff shortages and keep services up and running.
“We don’t have enough midwives, and those we do have are underpaid, undervalued and overworked,” said Joeli Brearley, chief executive of campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says members are “at the end of their rope” and “physically and emotionally burned out.”
While some midwives who quit will stay in the NHS and simply move trusts, there are warnings that the exodus of those who leave permanently could jeopardize the safety of women having babies. There is a shortage of about 2,000 midwives, says the RCM.
Joeli Brearley, chief executive of campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “We don’t have enough midwives, and the ones we have are underpaid, undervalued and overworked.
“This is an issue that has been repeatedly communicated to the government for years. It endangers the lives of women and their babies and causes untold damage to their mental and physical health. The government urgently needs to get a grip on the situation before more tragedies happen.”
Rachel Power, director of the Patient Association, said: “Without enough midwives, support for expectant mothers will be inadequate, collaboration with patients will be difficult, care provided is unlikely to be compassionate, and we are concerned that care could decline.” to such a level that it is no longer safe.’
Alice Sorby, from the RCM, said: ‘We have warned the government time and again that midwives, midwives and all those who work in maternity care are at the end of their line, physically and emotionally burned out.
‘Maternity care cannot be provided cheaply. It is not safe and not sustainable.
‘The government must draw up a clear and budgeted action plan on how it wants to improve things.’
The findings come after a report from the Care Quality Commission warned that mothers and babies were at risk, with nearly half of maternity wards potentially unsafe.
Regulators rated 80 of the 193 NHS maternity care as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ in their latest inspections. The low numbers mean they don’t meet basic safety standards, and several years after the problems were first identified, some are still failing.
The Ministry of Health and Social Care said: ‘Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff, including midwives, is a top priority.
‘We aim to hire an additional 1,200 midwives and 100 consultant midwives over the next year with a £95 million recruitment campaign, on top of a £127 million NHS investment in maternity care.’