RCM tells politicians how to fix the midwifery staffing crisis with new pre-election guide

on 29 February 2024 Midwife Training Midwife Shortage Midwifery Midwifery Workforce Flexible Working NHS Staff Staffing Levels Midwives NHS NHS Wales NHS England NHS Funding NHS Scotland RCM RCM Member RCM CEO MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Apprenticeships Government

'Ending the national midwife shortage is possible,’ says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as it launches a new guide with solutions for the next UK Parliament.

Low-cost solutions to improve working conditions for midwives, practical examples of how flexible working can work, and suggestions to improve education and student attrition rates are among the key solutions contained in the RCM’s new guide.

The RCM’s ‘How to Fix the Midwifery Staffing Crisis’ has been developed for current and future Members of Parliament, setting out solutions to the issues faced not only in England, but right across the UK.

Staffing shortages undoubtedly impact safety, says the RCM, so solving the issues with practical solutions must be the number one priority for any incoming Government.

Speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Maternity session today, the RCM’s Chief Executive, Gill Walton, said:

“We don’t want the next Government coming in and putting maternity services in the ‘too difficult’ basket. That’s why we are taking this opportunity to set out the solutions to ending the national shortage of midwives. There are challenges, but, in this new guide, the RCM has opportunities and solutions available. With recent policy decisions around retention and fixable issues like flexible working, we see the elimination of the midwife shortage as a realistic goal.

“The NHS needs to learn how to keep midwives in the profession: that is crucial in solving the retention issues. We hear far too often from our members that they feel undervalued and uncared for, unable to take breaks to drink water or even go to the toilet. Are these the conditions you would work in yourself? Is it any wonder midwives are heading for the door?”

There is good practice in some services the RCM says where rotas are built around having cover for those taking breaks as well as ensuring staff working night shifts have access to hot food. These the RCM say are small changes that are in the gift of NHS employers and can make a huge difference to the wellbeing of staff.

The lack of flexible working in a primarily female dominated profession like midwifery is something that has been overlooked for far too long, and it’s a key reason why services can’t retain midwives.

Gill added:

“Our members, especially those with caring responsibilities, tell us the lack of flexible working opportunities is why they have left or are considering leaving. Asking staff when they are available to work and building rotas around their availability works, we have seen it in practice. We are encouraging services who have tackled issues to share solutions with those who are struggling, but we cannot do that alone. NHS employers need to act and support services where challenges are most acute. We also MPs to champion maternity services in their constituencies and work with us on improving them, not only for staff but for the women and families they care for too.”

New midwifery apprenticeships, primarily for maternity support workers (MSWs), are already working in the NHS. Enabling those from a broader range of backgrounds to qualify and the RCM supports the current Government’s plans on that.

Ahead of the General Election the RCM will publish further instalments of their How to Fix guides which they hope will support MPs and others to see that, amid the many challenges for UK maternity services, there are also solutions.


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

Notes to Editors:



About the RCM


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