Degree apprenticeships show promise of building the next generation of midwives

on 26 September 2023 Midwifery Midwives Midwifery Workforce Maternity Services NHS Government England MSWs - Maternity Support Workers NHS Staff On Employment Caring For You campaign Midwife Shortage NHS England Staffing Levels Stress

A new route into midwifery has been praised by an independent report. The report, commissioned by NHS England and the Royal College of Midwives and written by Professor Richard Griffin of King’s College London, found that registered midwifery degree apprenticeships (RMDAs) found it improved accessibility and workforce retention.

The evaluation found that there were significantly lower attrition rates from the RMDA programme compared to the more traditional degree route – almost zero compared to 13% - with places funded by employers’ Apprenticeship Levy. Because the majority of apprentices were drawn from the maternity support workforce, there was an in-built commitment to and understanding of maternity services. The programme was also found to support diversity, both in terms of supporting mature apprentices and those with caring responsibilities, and those from non-white backgrounds.

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said:

“It is no secret that there is a chronic shortage of midwives in the UK, particularly in England. While we must do all we can to retain the skill and experience we have, we must also build the next generation of midwives – and the next, and the next.

“Registered Midwifery Degree Apprenticeships offer just that. They tap into the rich seam of talent within the maternity support workforce, offering development opportunities for those for whom undertaking a degree may not otherwise be an option. They also ensure that the knowledge and experience those maternity support workers (MSWs) isn’t lost from the service, but built upon.”

This sense of ‘grow your own’ workforce is reflected in the report, with employers recognising the benefits of increasing career progression opportunities among their existing workforce.

The apprenticeship scheme was first approved in 2018, with the first graduates completing their studies earlier this year. Importantly, the evaluation found no material difference in competency between graduates from traditional and apprenticeship routes. The report also found that the scheme improved relationships between the host employer and university, with graduate apprentices also able to transition into work more readily post qualification.

Gill concluded:

“The Royal College of Midwives has long advocated for apprenticeships and we are delighted to see that this evaluation bears out that advocacy. Our hope now is that these schemes are rolled out more widely to the benefit of maternity services, and the women and families they support.”

Access the short report here.

Download the full length report here

Access both reports via the RCM publications page here.