Midwifery crisis

Published on: 16/03/2017

Concerns are growing about the shortage of midwives, especially as a high proportion are retiring, and applications to train are also low.   The current shortage of midwives in the profession is already having a worrying  impact on women’s care. A recent report published by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) and NCT, highlighted concerns over the number of ‘red flag’ incidents occurring during childbirth.

Red-flag incidents are seen by NICE as an indicator that not enough midwives are available to provide women with the care that they need, an example of which can be waiting more than 30 minutes for pain relief. The report indicates that 50% of women experience at least one red flag incident during childbirth.  2493 women responded to the online survey, which found limited progress when comparing results to an earlier survey four years ago. The report also raised concerns over the availability of midwives after childbirth, with many women having to seek support elsewhere through their GP or A&E.

Louise Silverton, from the Director of Midwifery for the RCM, commented that “the fact that half of women have experienced a red-flag event is hugely worrying. It is a sign of services under too much pressure, with too few resources and not enough staff.”

This report highlights increasing problems regarding the numbers in the midwifery profession and there are yet more concerns for the future. The RCM’s latest annual report states that there is a shortage of 3,500 midwives, with many reaching retirement age.

Alongside this need to replace retiring midwives student applications have fallen nearly 25% with the RCM calling it a “disaster in the making”. UCAS has identified that midwifery and nursing has had one of the most notable drops for applications for the forthcoming year.

Jon Skewes, Director for Policy, Employment Relations and Communications, commented: “It seems a remarkable coincidence that this drastic fall in applications comes soon after the announcement that midwifery and nursing students are having their bursary scrapped, and will have to pay tuition fees. This could leave them as much as £60,000 in debt when they qualify” He added “I repeat our call for the government to revisit their ill-informed and poorly thought through decision to scrap bursaries.”


For more on the survey see here

More information on ageing midwifery population can be seen here

For more on the low student applications see here