Temporary increase in midwife numbers needed

Government five-year plan for maternity and neonatal needs sufficient funding and staffing, according to the Royal College of Midwives

Thursday 9th May 2019

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says staff need to be provided with sufficient training and resources to deliver on the objectives of the Scottish Government’s five year maternity services plan.

The RCM’s comments follow a debate held in parliament yesterday on support for Scotland’s midwives – during which Scottish Labour called for an additional £10m to address a funding shortfall that was affecting the safe delivery of care.

Commenting, Dr Mary Ross-Davie, the Scotland director at the RCM, said:

“This debate highlights the great work that midwives and other members of the maternity team do every day to support families across Scotland.  It also highlights the need to continue to invest in maternity services and midwives.

“The Scottish Government has set out a radical vision for maternity services. Such a huge change requires significant ongoing investment and careful implementation. 

We recognise the positive start made with the commitment of £12m for implementation made by the Government. We also recognise the year on year increase in student midwife places, the continuation of the student bursary and the new safe staffing legislation. This will all contribute to ensuring that we have enough midwives and maternity support workers to provide safe care.”

In 2017 the Scottish Government published its Best Start five-year plan for maternity and neonatal services, which promised to deliver ‘truly family-centred care’ and to build a continuity-based system that aims to have women see the same midwife throughout and after their pregnancy.

“The Best Start Review recommends a huge shift in how and where maternity and neonatal services are delivered,” adds Dr Ross-Davie.

“The RCM has argued that in order for the changes to be safe, successful and sustainable midwives will need time, training and support to feel confident to work in different ways. 

“Health boards will need, at least temporarily, to increase the number of midwives in the system. We will also need to keep a close eye on what the staffing requirements are in a new continuity-based system in the longer term – this is the woman seeing the same midwife or small group of midwives throughout and after her pregnancy.

“We know that hospitals will continue to need to have experienced core staffing to be available at all times, in addition to the community-based continuity team midwives. 

“It is also vital that through this implementation process the Government and health boards value, support and listen to their midwives.  Midwives need to have patterns of working that enable them to have a good work life balance, they need to have workloads that enable them to provide high quality care and any changes need to be shaped by the midwives themselves. Not all midwives wish or are able to work in this different way and their contribution needs to continue to be valued.

“The RCM is working locally and nationally across Scotland to ensure that the needs, views and rights of midwives are part of this change process.  We will continue to argue for appropriate investment, realistic timescales and a clear outline of the scope of the changes.

“We know from surveys that women and families across Scotland are generally very positive about the care they receive from midwives and others in the maternity services in Scotland. The Scottish Government and health boards need to provide staff with the resources, staffing, time and training to continually raise the standard of care they are able to provide.

“The RCM will be monitoring this and will support the Scottish Government and health boards in their efforts to achieve this. But we will also hold them to account if they do not give our maternity services the resources they need.” 

Last week the midwives’ union welcomed new health and care staffing legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament, which is the first in the UK to include midwives and all healthcare professions, as well as the care sector.

The group said: “This legislation is not the answer to every staffing challenge in Scotland, but it sets out clear national standards for multi-disciplinary workload and workforce planning and embeds openness about decisions about staffing across all staff groups.”