On International Day of the Midwife the RCN calls for a 12.5% rise for maternity staff

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Midwife on a demonstration last September with a clear message

THE ROYAL College of Nurses (RCN) has taken the occasion of the International Day of the Midwife to demand a pay increase for all NHS workers and for the urgent need to address the acute staffing crisis which means that the NHS is 2,500 midwives short.

Being short of midwives is putting women, babies and staff at risk. The RCN said: ‘This years’ theme is “Follow the Data: Invest in Midwives”, and we’re calling for a 12.5% pay increase for NHS maternity staff as part of our Fair Pay for Nursing Campaign.

‘It is more important than ever to recognise the difference that midwifery and nursing staff make to the patients they serve, and fair pay is the first step towards that recognition.’

RCN Deputy President Tracey Budding, who works as a pregnancy clinical nurse specialist, said: ‘I have witnessed first-hand how midwives have gone above and beyond in their roles to keep mothers and babies safe during an unprecedented year.

‘They have done this while competing with low staffing levels in extremely challenging circumstances while also supporting the families of the mothers and babies in their care.

‘We need to continue our fight for fair pay for nurses and midwives but equally hold the government to account on the need to introduce safe staffing legislation to ensure we have enough midwives now and in the future to maintain safe care for all.’

Carmel Bagness, the RCN’s Professional Lead for Midwifery and Women’s Health, said: ‘This year has been particularly challenging, and the RCN wants to recognise the hard work, dedication and compassion shown by all maternity staff in the face of unprecedented challenges.

‘While there is still more that needs to be done to enhance the care of childbearing women, and their families both in the UK and around the globe, today is a chance to recognise what a highly skilled and vital profession midwifery is.’

Meanwhile, health services globally are 900,000 midwives short.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on International Day of the Midwife has highlighted that 4.3 million lives a year would be saved if enough midwives were recruited, preventing the horror of newborn deaths, stillbirths and mothers dying during pregnancy or childbirth.

The WHO said: ‘Millions of lives of women and newborns are lost, and millions more experience ill health or injury, because the needs of pregnant women and skills of midwives are not recognised or prioritised.

‘The world is currently facing a shortage of 900,000 midwives, which represents a third of the required global midwifery workforce.

‘The Covid-19 crisis has only exacerbated these problems, with the health needs of women and newborns being overshadowed, midwifery services being disrupted and midwives being deployed to other health services.

‘These are some of the key takeaways from the 2021 State of World’s Midwifery report by UNFPA (the UN sexual and reproductive health agency), WHO, International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and partners, which evaluates the midwifery workforce and related health resources in 194 countries.

‘The acute shortage of midwives is exacting a terrible global toll in the form of preventable deaths.

‘An analysis conducted for this report, published in the Lancet last  December, showed that fully resourcing midwife-delivered care by 2035 could avert 67 per cent of maternal deaths, 64 per cent of newborn deaths and 65 per cent of stillbirths.

‘It could save an estimated 4.3 million lives per year.

‘Despite alarms raised in the last State of the World’s Midwifery report in 2014, which also provided a roadmap on how to remedy this deficit, progress over the past eight years has been too slow.

‘The analysis in this year’s report shows that, at current rates of progress, the situation will have improved only slightly by 2030.

‘Gender inequality is an unacknowledged driver in this massive shortage.

‘The continued under-resourcing of the midwifery workforce is a symptom of health systems not prioritising the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls, and not recognising the role of midwives – most of whom are women – to meet these needs. Women account for 93 per cent of midwives and 89 per cent of nurses.

‘Midwives do not just attend births.

‘They also provide antenatal and postnatal care and a range of sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, detecting and treating sexually transmitted infections, and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents, all while ensuring respectful care and upholding women’s rights.

‘As numbers of midwives increase, and they are able to provide care in an enabling environment, women’s and newborns’ health improves as a whole, benefiting all of society.

‘For midwives to achieve their life-saving and life-changing potential, greater investment is needed in their education and training, midwife-led service delivery, and midwifery leadership. Governments must prioritise funding and support for midwifery and take concrete steps to include midwives in determining health policies.’

Dr Franka Cadée, President of the International Confederation of Midwives. said: ‘As autonomous, primary care providers, midwives are continually overlooked and ignored.

‘It’s time for governments to acknowledge the evidence surrounding the life-promoting, life-saving impact of midwife-led care, and take action on the SoWMy report’s recommendations.

‘ICM is committed to leveraging the strength of our global midwife community to carry forward these powerful findings and inspire country-level change.

‘However, this work is not possible without commitment from decision makers and those with the resources to invest in midwives and the quality care they provide to birthing women.’

Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director said: ‘The State of the World’s Midwifery report sounds the alarm that currently the world urgently needs 1.1 million more essential health workers to deliver sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health care, and 80 per cent of these missing essential health workers are midwives.

‘A capable, well-trained midwife can have an enormous impact on childbearing women and their families – an impact often passed on from one generation to the next. At UNFPA, we have spent more than a decade strengthening education, enhancing working conditions and supporting leadership roles for the midwifery profession.

‘We have seen that these efforts work, but they need greater investment.’

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: ‘Midwives play a vital role in reducing the risks of childbirth for women all over the world, but many have themselves been exposed to risk during the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘We must learn the lessons the pandemic is teaching us, by implementing policies and making investments that deliver better support and protection for midwives and other health workers.

‘This report provides the data and evidence to support WHO’s longstanding call to strengthen the midwifery workforce, which will deliver a triple dividend in contributing to better health, gender equality and inclusive economic growth.’