The college has launched an e-petition urging 5,000 extra midwives in England to be trained to keep up with the added pressures, which include growing numbers of obese and older pregnant women.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Before the last election David Cameron pledged to recruit an extra 3,000 more midwives in the NHS in England. That was music to our ears here at the Royal College of Midwives. Then, as now, the NHS was thousands of midwives short, and this was just what we wanted and needed to hear from a would-be prime minister.
“Once David Cameron was safely inside Number Ten however the pledge was dropped. The excuse was that the number of births was no longer rising. This is bizarre in the extreme given that in 2010, the latest year for which we have figures, the number of births in England was actually at its highest level for 40 years.
“Again, when challenged at Prime Minister’s Questions recently he brushed aside any suggestion that his pre-election pledge should be honoured, saying there are 620 more midwives. There are more midwives, but there are also many, many more babies being born and midwife numbers are not keeping pace. Whilst it is true that the Government has maintained student midwife numbers for two years, newly qualified midwives are not getting jobs because of trust cutbacks”.
Cathy Warwick continued “I have become so concerned about the shortage of midwives that I have lodged an e-petition with Parliament calling for the Government to set a target of 5,000 more NHS midwives in England.
“Without this increase in midwife numbers and investment I have real fears that our maternity services could be heading towards a point where not only the quality of care is threatened, but safety as well.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “There are hundreds more midwives in the NHS than there were last year, and midwife training numbers are at record levels.
“We are modernising the NHS so patients can continue to receive safe, high-quality maternity care and we are increasing funding for the NHS by £12.5 billion over the next four years, a sign of our commitment to protecting it for the future.”
The RCM has launched an E-petition. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/13716