‘Improving pay part of solution to recruitment and retention crisis,’ RCM tells Pay Review Body

By RCM on 05 April 2022 RCM Midwife Shortage NHS Staff Staffing Levels MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Midwifery Workforce Government Pay

Failing to deliver a decent, inflation-proof pay award will speed up the recruitment and retention crisis in maternity services. That’s the stark warning of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as it gives oral evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) today (5 April).

Only a pay rise that starts to make up for years of pay restraint and enables staff to keep up with the rising cost of living, as well as increases to both National Insurance and pension contributions, will help stem the flow of midwives and other staff leaving maternity services.

Commenting, Alice Sorby, RCM’s Director for Employment Relations says;

“Our members feel utterly undervalued by the Government, morale among staff is at its lowest for a long time, last year’s pay award was late and by no means enough to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living. What is in the gift of the PRB is to recommend a pay award that shows midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) that they are valued, that it is worth staying in the NHS. Because we are at a tipping point.

“Just last week, Donna Ockenden’s devastating report drew a direct parallel between workforce shortages and safety. The reality is that this isn’t just about fair pay for dedicated staff in maternity services, it’s about ensuring the safety of the women and families that use them. Many midwives stayed in the NHS out of a sense of loyalty to their colleagues and to those women and families, not wanting to desert them during the pandemic. We feared that it was only a temporary halt to the exodus of experienced staff, and that fear is now being realised as we have seen for a month-on-month drop in the number of midwives working in the NHS.”

Official NHS workforce figures for England published last week showed that in the 12 months to January 2022 there were 410 fewer midwives than at the same point last year. This is on top of existing estimates of a shortage of over 2,000 midwives in England alone.

In a recent RCM survey of Heads of Midwifery (HOMs) in England, over three-quarters (77%) said it is becoming ‘increasingly difficult’ to recruit to vacancies. Almost nine out of 10 (87%) said they currently have midwife vacancies, with 61% saying they had to call in bank or agency staff nearly every day. Nearly all those who responded (97%) said they rely on either a significant or a moderate amount of goodwill to run services.

This was borne out by the NHS’s own staff survey, released last week, which found that 83.4% of midwives reported working additional unpaid hours, up from 79% in 2020, and more than quarter above the national average for NHS workers. The RCM has called for NHS employers to enforce a no-working-for-free policy and say overtime should be used for all hours in addition to contracted hours


Alice added:


“Maternity services cannot and should not be run on the cheap, and certainly not by relying on staff working beyond their paid hours for free. It’s not safe and it’s not sustainable. Most midwives and MSWs are at the top of their pay band, and therefore will be entirely reliant on the ‘cost of living’ pay award that is within the Pay Review Body’s gift.”


Midwife and RCM Activist Pauline Twigg said:

“Last year the Government kept us waiting for months, and when they finally announced the 3% pay award for NHS staff, we felt even more undervalued than ever before. Morale hit rock bottom. Maternity services often run on the goodwill of staff, but we are reaching the end of the road of that goodwill. I’ve had conversations with colleagues who are experiencing financial hardship, there is real concern among midwives about the rising cost of living, coupled with increases to our pension contribution who are considering other jobs outside of the NHS.”


Maternity Support Worker (MSW) and RCM Activist Keelie Barrett said:

“As an MSW I have never felt so undervalued. The fact is many of my colleagues are leaving to work in retail or supermarket settings because they can get paid more and stress less. Many MSWs including me are wondering why train to become an MSW and enter the NHS if we aren’t going to be paid properly for what we do? Particularly given the fact that we work unsociable hours to ensure a 24/7 service the whole year round often missing out on key family celebrations. I’m also hearing of too many instances of MSWs being asked to work above their grade, which isn’t fair on them and potentially isn’t safe either. I love my job, I love working in maternity services supporting women and families, but it’s incredibly hard and stressful work which we aren’t paid enough for and certainly aren’t valued by this Government.”




To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected]. 


Notes to Editors: 


The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team.  We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM | A professional organisation and trade union dedicated to serving the whole midwifery team