Improving pay part of the solution to stem the tide of midwives leaving the NHS says RCM

By Gemma Murphy on 14 February 2024 Pay NHS Pay Review Body Pay and Agenda For Change NHS Staff NHS England NHS Wales Maternity Services MSWs - Maternity Support Workers RCM Member RCM Midwives Government

‘Paying staff fairly and valuing the skilled work they do is an important part of the solution to the maternity staffing crisis.’ That’s the message from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as it submits evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) for the 2024/25 pay round.

Below-inflation pay awards and decades of pay restraint are just two of the reasons the NHS is losing so many experienced midwives. Alongside this, a lack of flexible working opportunities and having to work hours unpaid are cited by midwives who are considering leaving the profession.

The RCM says real terms pay increases will go towards retaining midwives and will help stem the flow of leavers. In turn, this will improve maternity services’ ability to support and train newly qualified midwives.

The impact pay has on staff retention and workforce shortages has been laid bare in the RCM’s evidence, which also shows the challenges for maternity services often only functioning safely because of staff working long and additional hours, often unpaid.

Commenting, Gill Walton, RCM’s General Secretary says;

“The 2023 pay increases did not address the real term pays cuts suffered by midwives for more than a decade and it certainly has not resolved the workforce crisis blighting midwifery. Our members tell us pay is one of the main reasons they are considering leaving midwifery or why they have already left. Midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) have had to face the cost-of-living crisis with a below inflation pay award, how is that fair? It’s made staff feel less valued and chipped away at morale. Moreover, it has meant that some of our members are really struggling financially, turning to foodbanks for support. Some staff rooms now even have food boxes to help those struggling, which is something I never thought I’d see. The Government must do all it can to retain the midwives we have. Urgent action on staff retention is crucial and while pay is not the whole solution, it is absolutely a key factor to staff wanting to stay working in the NHS.”

“Many maternity services are running on the goodwill of staff, the RCM has highlighted within its evidence. In 2023 an RCM survey showed midwives across England worked around 100,000 extra unpaid hours a week to keep maternity services safe. This, the RCM says, amounts to 2,600 midwives working for free. The same survey showed that 88% of respondents worked additional unpaid hours, with more than one in four (26%) respondents working more than five additional unpaid hours a week.”

Gill added:

“Highly skilled midwives and MSWs need to see that their work is valued with fair pay and recognition. Working beyond allocated shift hours and only being compensated by time off in lieu - which many members can’t take because there aren’t enough staff - is no way to run our maternity services. We want to see our members who work additional hours getting paid fairly: it’s not an unreasonable ask. It’s also never been more crucial that staff see real term pay rises.  We’ve also asked the NHS Pay Review Body to consider our solutions and to recommend that the Government delivers a credible plan to restore the pay lost by NHS staff. Improving pay will help to retain midwives and given the staff shortages and the implications that has for delivering safe, high-quality care it must be a priority.”



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


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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