A survey of 803 students and newly qualified midwives by the RCM found that more than a half (52 per cent) of students ‘strongly agreed’ that they were finding it difficult to get a job as a midwife.
Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) said that there were not enough vacancies for the number of midwives seeking jobs and 64 per cent said that they were finding it difficult to get a job in the location that they wanted.
Of the respondents, 32 per cent who have started looking for jobs had not secured a midwifery post.
Sixty-two per cent of students who had not secured a post said they were not optimistic about finding a job as a midwife.
More than a third (38 per cent) said they strongly disagreed that there were enough midwifery vacancies for the number of midwives seeking employment.
A second survey of 763 students midwives found that almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of midwifery students expect to be in debt at the end of their midwifery course and more than a third, 35 per cent left the course due to the financial burden.
The two surveys of student midwives and newly qualified midwives reveal startling results were released on Tuesday by the Royal College of Midwives at its annual student conference in Brighton.
One student said: ‘I am terrified at the prospect of qualifying.
‘I think it is disgusting that scores of talented, enthusiastic midwives are finding themselves out of work because the government doesn’t recognise the need to provide thousands more midwives for the NHS.’
Another student said: ‘I am in my final year now and so am seen as a form of help, yet I know my future as a qualified midwife and paid midwife is bleak.
‘It’s such a shame that during one of the proudest periods of my life I feel there may not really be anything worth celebrating.’
General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives Cathy Warwick, which has more than 5,000 student members, said: ‘These surveys underline what the RCM has been saying and campaigning about for some time – that morale amongst student midwives is plummeting because of their accumulated debts and uncertainty about getting a job after graduating.’
Professor Warwick added: ‘We have a demographic time bomb with an ageing midwifery population and with many midwives nearing retirement.
‘We need to be nurturing and grooming our next generation of student midwives, as they are our profession’s lifeblood and future.’
The surveys in the UK looked at aspects of student midwives’ work, morale, hopes and aspirations.
The results showed that morale among some students was at a nadir.
Many students said that that they were being used to plug holes caused by staff shortages and worried about accumulating considerable debt.
One student said: ‘The biggest obstacle is without doubt finances.
‘The hospital site does not provide any type of student parking and for a full shift the hospital car park is £8, which I cannot afford to pay for each shift.’
Following the survey’s results, the RCM also recommends that the Nursing and Midwifery Council streamlines its processes to ensure that recent midwifery graduates can speedily get their NMC registration so they can practice.
Recent midwifery graduates reported securing jobs but were unable to start work for several months as they were waiting to be registered with the NMC.
Sue Jacob, student services advisor for the RCM, said: ‘As we are in the midst of both a baby boom and a recession and are facing public spending cuts, the outlook for jobs for recently qualified student midwives is uncertain.
‘We don’t want student midwives to become disillusioned and be used to fill gaps to relieve staff shortages on wards.
‘We need to work together with the Department of Health to find a way for student midwives to use their education and training and get jobs as midwives.
‘If we don’t their education, energy, enthusiasm, and the cost of training them is going to be lost and that would be a tremendous waste of the taxpayer’s money.’
The gap between the rhetoric of the government on maternity services and the reality on the ground, was the theme of a keynote speech by Cathy Warwick at the RCM Conference on Tuesday.
She highlighted the growing disparity between the increasing demands made on midwives and maternity services and the dwindling resources at their disposal.
Warwick also attacked the government on its planned reorganisation of the NHS, saying ‘that several billion pounds will have been wasted on a yet another pointless reorganisation of the NHS.’
The plans, she will say are ‘risky and ill-thought through’ because it risks undermining any progress that has been made in the NHS in recent years.
Her speech also focused on the huge ‘savings’ demanded by the government from the NHS.
She asked: ‘How taking £20 billion out of the healthcare system can be done without creating a negative human cost for the people who rely on the NHS for their care?’
At the same time, she pointed out that spending on maternity services, as a proportion of NHS spending, is now lower than it was in the late 1990s.
This is despite being in the middle of a baby boom that is far outstripping the ability of maternity services to cope. Warwick called for more resources to be put into midwife-led care, rather than cutting back on it.
She also pointed out that the reality today in maternity services is that budgets are being squeezed and services are being cut.
The tap on increased funding in the NHS is being turned off, and in coming years it will not be possible to mask the worst effects of rising demand and limited resources.
She countered the government’s claim that spending on the NHS is increasing, arguing that, at best, spending will actually remain the same, or drop in real terms because demand is increasing.
Finally, Warwick argued against the government rhetoric which says that public sector pensions are unaffordable and that contributions must go up to pay for the rising cost of pensions.
She said that the reality is that the NHS pension scheme has generated a surplus of more than £2 billion and that NHS staff put more money into the NHS pension scheme than they take out.
She also stressed that midwives and other public sector workers are scapegoats; sacrificed to pay off the national debt caused by the irresponsible and reckless behaviour of the banks.
This is at the same time as chief executives of the top stock exchange companies took home an average salary of £3.7 million. That is 110 times as much as the average midwife.
• Maternity, accident and emergency and children’s wards are under threat at hospitals in South West London NHS Trust.
The Trust’s ‘Better Healthcare, Better Value’ review plans £64.5 million cuts from its £2.3 billion budget.
The Trust covers Kingston Hospital, Croydon University Hospital, St Helier in Sutton, St George’s in Tooting as well as South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust.
Dr Howard Freeman, who is leading the review, claimed: ‘Changing the way we deliver health services will save lives.
‘The case for change lays bare the problems and local doctors and nurses are determined that the patients we see every day should be involved as we try to solve them.’
But Edward Davey, Kingston and Surbiton MP, said: ‘I remain entirely opposed to any closures or any proposals that might be put forward that would see the maternity and A&E at Kingston Hospital closing. This is an absolute red line.’
A ‘public consultation’ is set to begin in May, with changes to be implemented before the end of 2013.