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UK desperately needs more midwives, as current workforce ages

Wednesday 8th February 2017
An ageing midwifery workforce has led the RCM to call for more new midwives to enter the profession. Image: nattanan726 via iStock
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    The UK is in desperate need of more midwives, as a significant proportion of the country's current midwifery workforce is fast nearing retirement age.

    According to new statistics published by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as part of its State of Maternity Services report, Britain is already facing a shortfall of around 3,500 midwives.

    What's more, this figure is only set to increase as current midwives begin to retire unless swift action is taken to fund more training places and encourage more school leavers to consider the profession as a career option.

    Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, explained: "A vast proportion of our midwives are close to retirement. We're lucky to have them. They are doing great work every day. But it's an inescapable fact that they will soon take their well-deserved retirement. That will challenge our maternity units and put the whole system potentially on the brink of collapse."

    Figures show that more than one-third of midwives in the UK are approaching retirement age, with two in five of those based in Scotland and Northern Ireland already in their 50s or 60s and more than 1,000 of those working in England aged 60 and above.

    The new report from the RCM also shows that the proportion of midwives working in Britain who are aged 50 and over has increased markedly since 2010, which indicates that not enough younger workers are entering the profession.

    This has led to a staffing shortfall, raising concerns that the standard of care that is delivered to new mothers and their babies will suffer in the future due to existing midwives being placed under extra strain, which could potentially hamper their ability to deliver top care.

    With this in mind, the RCM is calling on the government to do more to support new midwives into the profession, such as advertising it to people from an early age. The report found that the age at which women are having children and coming into contact with midwives for the first time is increasing, meaning many may not consider it as an option as a result.

    Written by James Puckle

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