Worsening staffing levels and poor morale ‘affecting the safety’ of maternity units, finds survey

Midwifery vacancies have doubled in the past year adding to the pressures on maternity services.

Kizzy Bass
6 March 2020
Baby and Midwife

Poor staffing impacts on the quality of care that can be provided.

The Royal College of Midwives is calling for more investment into maternity care as more than half of the maternity units in the UK are understaffed.


The survey of Directors and Heads of Midwifery shows that midwifery vacancies have doubled in the past year adding to the pressures on maternity services.

Add to this a sharp rise in midwives being redeployed from their normal area of work, such as in the community, to cover essential services including labour wards and delivery suites. Resulting in other key services such as home births and births on midwife-led units being cut back, reducing choice for women.

Key findings from this survey include;

  • Over half (54%) said their funded staffing is below recommended levels
  • Eight out of ten (80%) have midwife vacancies and the number has almost doubled from 611 in 2018 to 1056 in 2019
  • Almost a fifth (17%) said they had to reduce services in the past year compared with 7% in 2018
  • Seven out of ten (74%) reported having to redeploy staff at least once a week to cover essential services compared to 62% in 2018
  • All (100%) agreed their team is motivated to provide high quality, safe care to women. But over two-thirds (72%) said morale was just ok or poor, compared to half (50%) in 2018.

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said: “Despite positive government commitments to increase midwife numbers our maternity services are facing increasing demand and insufficient staffing and resources.


“This impacts on the quality of care women are receiving and most importantly it is affecting the safety of our maternity services. We need to see the pace of midwife increases stepped-up and more investment put into our maternity services.

“Pressures on our midwives, maternity support workers and wider maternity team are hitting morale. Services are too often relying on the goodwill of staff to keep them safe and of high quality.

“Poor morale leads to poorer services. This is not the way to treat staff and it is not the way to ensure women get the best possible care.”

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