Today the WI and NCT have launched our second report into maternity services. Now we need your help to make sure the Government hears our call for more midwives.
The report is the next stage for the More Midwives campaign, which was launched in 2012 after a resolution calling for an end to the shortage of midwives, was passed at the WI Annual Meeting.
While women were generally positive about the care they experienced, we found that the shortage of midwives continues to impact mothers, babies and their families. Despite four years having passed since our first report, our research suggests that little progress has been made in that time.
Shockingly, half of women told us that they had experienced at least one ‘red-flag’ event during childbirth. A red-flag event is a sign that there may not be enough midwives available to give women and babies the care they need. This could mean having to wait more than 30 minutes to get pain relief, or not receiving one-to-one care during labour.
We also found that postnatal care is still failing far too many women. Almost one in five women (18%) did not see a midwife as often as they needed to postnatally. This resulted in delayed diagnoses of health problems at a critical time for mothers and babies.
Almost a third of these women were forced to turn to other parts of the NHS like GPs, walk-in centres or even A&E to get the help they needed. This is simply not sustainable when our NHS services are under such huge pressure.
The vast majority of women (88%) told us that they did not know their midwife before they went into labour or gave birth. This is the same result as we found in our first research report, and suggests that continuity of care remains an aspiration, not a reality.
Marylyn Haines Evans, Public Affairs Chair of the NFWI said:
“The findings from this report show that chronic midwife shortages (an estimated 3,500 in England alone) continue to undermine the delivery of high quality care for women and their families. Half of the women we spoke to reported red-flag events during their care, suggesting that staffing levels are at crisis point.
“Women have told us that midwives are working hard to do the very best that they can, but that there are simply not enough of them to go around. We are calling on the Government and the NHS to end this chronic midwife shortage immediately and take the necessary steps to ensure midwives are supported to remain in the profession.”
It is clear that we need urgent action to address the shortage of midwives. We now need WI members to write to their MPs and AMs and encourage them to raise the issue with the Government in Westminster and Wales. You can download a template letter here.