March with Midwives: Maternity Crisis

On Sunday 21 November 2021, midwives across the UK staged vigils in order to call on the Government to address the ‘crisis’ in maternity services.  

Organisers of the demonstrations, March with Midwives, said: ‘It is clear that maternity services in the UK are in crisis. Giving birth in the UK, a high-income country, is becoming critically unsafe. This is unacceptable… This is a genuine national emergency which impacts every level of society.’ March with Midwives claim that 2021 has seen maternity services become unsafe for staff and users; as of July this year, 41% of all maternity services are rated inadequate or requires improvement for safety.

It is reported that many of the midwives attending the vigils conveyed the same message: they are understaffed and overworked. One campaigner who has worked in the profession for almost 20 years said that she often goes into work feeling worried about the number of women she will have to look after. Others considered that the shortage of midwifery staff means it is currently ‘critically unsafe’ to have a child in the UK.

Jon Skewes Executive Director for External Relations of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), showed support for the vigils and pointed to a recent RCM survey which had found that 57% of midwives in the UK are considering leaving the profession. The concerning statistics showed that for every 30 newly qualified midwives, 29 of them will quit.

Worryingly, these are not new findings. In 2018, a total of 1997 midwives (16% of the RCM membership) took part in the UK Whelm Study. The results showed that an alarming number of the UK’s midwifery workforce was experiencing significant levels of emotional distress and work-related burnout. It is thought that the global pandemic has rapidly exacerbated these issues and it is feared that maternity services are now at breaking point.  

Amongst those who also took to the streets were parents who consider that their pregnancy or labour was negatively affected by problems in the profession. Some parents reported bullying and coercion to ensure compliance, and it was considered that trauma, amongst both parents and midwives, is rife.

The Government has responded by saying that a £95 million recruitment drive is underway which aims to hire an additional 1,200 midwives. A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to patient safety, eradicating avoidable harms and making the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth’.

Lanyon Bowdler’s award winning clinical negligence team has extensive experience of dealing with maternity and birth injury cases. If you have concerns about the maternity care you have received, our team are happy to discuss the matter with you and guide you through the process sensitively.