Low pay, high pressure and job dissatisfaction are turning midwives away from the profession and the NHS, the Royal College of Midwives has said.
It comes after a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service that showed Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, who run maternity services from Royal Bolton Hospital and Ingleside Birth Centre (currently closed) have lost 34 midwives in the last six months.
The data provided by Bolton FT did show they had recruited 20 midwives in that time and that seven had moved from full-time to part-time. The trust runs services across Bolton and Ingleside Birth Centre in Salford and said that staffing pressure was the reason it could not be reopened.
They said the ‘regrettable’ closure of Ingleside was due to pressures on services because of Covid-19 initially.
Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “Never before have we seen this level of pressure on maternity services. Yes, the pandemic has taken its toll, but the truth is it’s just shown up the fragility that’s been there for years.
“Midwives and maternity support workers are passionate about doing their level best, to care for women, babies and their families. Every day, they strive to deliver safe care in the face of the challenges of understaffing and underinvestment.
“There is now a shortage of over 2,000 midwives in England alone and we are seeing the impact of this hitting some local services hard. The RCM believes in offering solutions, as well as highlighting the problems – and we’ve done just that to the Government and NHS bodies.
“They have to act on the recruitment and retention crisis before it’s too late. An urgent retention package is required, with improved terms and conditions, more flexible working, and decent pay rise at its heart to begin to address the current staffing crisis in our maternity services.”
It is clear that Bolton FT are not alone in their struggles to retain and hire staff. The Northern Care Alliance, who run care across Salford, Oldham, Rochdale and Bury, have highlighted that the retention of staff is a big area of concern.
A board of directors meeting for the NCA, held on April 26, was told that the trust lost 2,419 staff members over the course of 2021/22. One of the largest areas of concern is nursing and midwifery, where the NCA saw the equivalent of one in seven leaving in 2021/22.
The NCA offered more than 5,000 job offers in the last 12 months with only 3,150 actually starting with them.
Tyrone Roberts, Chief Nurse at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are experiencing challenges with our maternity staffing and this is mirrored across the whole country.
“To address this we have an ongoing recruitment programme which seeks to understand what people are looking for in their employer, including our current workforce, so we can support people to have a long and successful career here in Bolton.
“We are also working with several universities with the aim of recruiting all students who train alongside our experienced and dedicated staff.
“We are incredibly proud of our colleagues who continue to work flexibly to deliver the staffing levels we require.”