March with Midwives Manchester: why NHS staff are staging a protest in the city centre and when it is

Last year’s rally in Manchester drew hundreds of people keen to express their concerns about the state of midwifery services - and organisers are hoping for much the same this time round as well.

Midwives will stage a major protest in Manchester city centre this weekend to draw attention to the state of midwifery in the NHS.

The March with Midwives Manchester hopes to draw attention to what health staff say are major problems with the services, including chronic staff shortages which is affecting the quality of care women and newborn babies receive. It is one of a number of similar protests taking place in cities around the country.

Last year’s event in Manchester drew hundreds of people wanting change in midwifery services and organisers say they are hoping for much the same this time. They also want to raise awareness of specific issues which are affecting maternity services in Greater Manchester.

What is the March with Midwives Manchester and when is it?

March with Midwives Manchester is taking place in St Peter’s Square on Sunday (20 November), starting at 2pm. It is organised by a grassroots organisation concerned about the current state of maternity services and is supported by current and retired midwives and students and their families.

Organisers of this year’s march said the 2021 event in Manchester attracted around 400 people and they are hoping those concerned about the health services will once again attend at the weekend. It is hoped that local MPs will also be attending the vigils, which as well as highlighting the current state of maternity services in the NHS will be a demand for action.

What is the March with Midwives Manifesto 2022?

March with Midwives has produced a 2022 manifesto outlining the problems it is seeking to raise awareness about and tackle. It says maternity services are currently “critically unsafe” for both patients and staff working in them.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) estimates that the UK is short of over 3,500 midwives, with the organisation’s most recent survey showing that 60% of staff who were quizzed are considering leaving the profession, citing inadequate staffing levels and concern for the quality and safety of care they are currently able to deliver.

The 2021 March with Midwives in Manchester

The manifesto is demanding the Government accepts the Health and Social Care Committee’s recommendation to increase resources across the NHS and set out a workforce plan with measures to increase retention and support staff as well as commits to an immediate pay rise for midwives with recruitment and retention payments for new entrants to the profession and review and reduce the amount of admin work midwives have to do.

It also wants the Government to implement the recent Women’s’ Health Strategy for England which calls for improvements to the quality and accessibility of services and information around women’s health, and for trade unions to support industrial action to ensure midwives and patients are protected and governments are held to account.

What has been said about the Manchester march?

Sarah Davies, one of the March with Midwives organisers, said there were a number of issues with maternity services in Greater Manchester and spoke of how the level of care women could expect to receive was being affected.

She said: “Recently we heard of a woman who was booked into hospital in Greater Manchester but when she rang up her booking hospital there was no room for her anywhere in Greater Manchester. She ended up going to Liverpool and eventually she got back to Greater Manchester.

“That is obviously an extreme example but every day women are not being able to have the births they want. Birth centres have been closed and home birth teams disbanded because of the shortage of midwives. They are being pulled into the centralised units in hospitals.

Sarah Davies (sat on the bicycle) with Abi Latif

“At the moment there is an exodus of midwives. Midwives are absolutely heartbroken at not being able to give the care they want. They are running between women, not being able to support breastfeeding. They’ve got mothers and babies to look after, so when there’s one midwife to 12 women that’s actually 24 patients.

“Things have got no better since last year’s march and we are also trying to highlight specific things in Greater Manchester.”