Stem the tide of midwives leaving the profession, RCM tells Downing Street

By RCM on 17 February 2022 NHS Midwives Staffing Levels Midwife Shortage RCM CEO RCM RCM Member Maternity Services Government NHS England

Concern over the growing workforce crisis in maternity came to Downing Street today, as RCM Chief Executive Gill Walton presented a petition demanding action by Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The petition, signed by over 123,000 people and organized by University of Suffolk midwife Cheryl Samuels, calls for urgent investment in maternity services to stem the tide of midwives leaving the NHS and better support for those just starting out.

Despite Government promises to increase the number of midwives in England, last year saw the number drop, adding to the existing shortage of over 2,000. Last year, an RCM survey showed that over half of midwives were considering leaving their job as a midwife. Worryingly, the highest level of dissatisfaction came from midwives who had only worked in the NHS for five years or less. The RCM fears that safety could be compromised if the Government fails to act, with two-thirds of its members saying they were not satisfied with the quality and safety of care they can deliver for women and babies.

RCM Chief Executive Gill Walton said: “Maternity services have been at the bottom of the list for investment for far too long and we’re now seeing what that means in practice. Midwives are being spread too thinly across the service because there are just too few of them. That’s compromising the level of care they want to give to pregnant women and it’s driving many of them out of the profession. It is absolutely within the Government’s gift to change this, by putting proper investment in maternity services and by demonstrating that they value the work that midwives do. We’ve been saying this for years, and I’m so grateful to everyone who signed this petition for adding their voices to ours.

The RCM is in good company in calling for greater investment. The House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee said last year that another £250-350 million every year is needed on top of current maternity service funding to ensure safe and high-quality care. The RCM has acknowledged the recent £93 million investment for 2022/23 to support the implementation of actions on workforce contained in the Ockenden interim review but says this is nowhere near enough of what is needed to improve staffing levels and safety.

Cheryl Samuels, a Midwifery Lecturer at the University of Suffolk, said: “I started the petition to ask the Government to invest urgently in NHS maternity services. We currently have a midwifery staffing crisis and maternity services are suffering. The unprecedented pressure this is causing negatively impacts midwives' wellbeing, staff retention and the care received by families. My hope is that the Government listens to the call for support so that we can move forward with a strong midwifery profession that is able to provide safe and effective care, improving outcomes for women and families.”

Student midwife Chloe Pearce, who was also at Downing Street, said: “As students we are the next generation of midwives to enter NHS maternity services. We take great pride in what we do. We strive to make a difference, but with the way maternity services are right now, we are struggling. We are frustrated that we cannot provide the high-quality care we want to. Without urgent investment, our maternity services will continue to suffer, and women and families will not receive the level of care they need and deserve. We need a maternity service we can be proud of again.”


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

Notes to Editors

For information about the petition visit Petition · Support urgent government investment into maternity services to solve the staffing crisis ·

See also RCM warns of midwife exodus as maternity staffing crisis grows.

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