The practice of putting nurses into midwifery roles is of particular concern.
Substituting registered midwives with registered nurses is putting the safety of patients at risk, warns the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
In a letter to Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer at NHS England, the RCM’s Chief Executive Gill Walton warns that the current pressure on maternity services are at a point where they will start to have a serious and negative impact on staff and services, and the quality and safety of care they can deliver.
While Ms Walton praises the suspension of midwifery continuity of care schemes and initiatives to ensure newly qualified midwives are better supported, she says there are some measures being taken that are likely to negatively affect patient care.
“Of particular concern is the practice of putting nurses into midwifery roles,” the College warns.
Unlikely to be safe.
Figures from NHS Digital reveal the profession has haemorrhaged 300 midwives in just two months.
In the letter Ms Walton writes; “the RCM cannot support the general redeployment of nurses into midwifery in unfamiliar areas and unfamiliar work.
“This is unlikely to be safe and may in fact result in additional pressure for the midwifery workforce. We are particularly concerned at the impact of using agency nurses to cover shortages in midwifery staffing.”
She continues by adding that midwifery services should be led by registered midwives and not nurses; “Midwifery must have a strong credible voice both with Trust Boards and with the workforce.
“Only a registered midwife can effectively lead and manage maternity services and the RCM will oppose any proposals to bring nurses lacking appropriate experience and expertise and without a midwifery qualification into senior roles within services.”
The RCM raises several other concerns in the letter including the fast-tracking of student midwives into practice and the removal of the super-numerary labour ward coordinator.
Ms Walton continues “We are concerned that one of the results of the staffing shortages caused by the pandemic is that a proportion of third year students remain some way from completing their necessary practice hours.
“We believe it is short-sighted and potentially unsafe to reduce the length of the midwifery programme or the requirements for theory and practice hours required to consolidate learning. Given the upheaval and disruption to their training, these students are likely to require additional not less support on qualification.
The RCM is calling for urgent action to be taken to safely alleviate pressure on maternity services.