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'More midwives move is overdue'
The shortage of midwives is a national problem, exacerbated by Britain’s baby boom.
Demands due to varying circumstances, such as women entering motherhood later in life and rising cases of diabetes and obesity, have put greater pressure on maternity services.
Conscious of the potential impact on care for Britain’s new mums and their babies, the Women’s Institute has backed a resolution to the Government backing a boost in the ranks of midwives.
Pudsey WI was one of 18 delegates attending the recent National Federation of Women’s Institutes annual meeting at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Founder member Olga Barber was among those who supported the resolution to increase investment in training and employment of midwives in England and Wales.
“People need care, not only during birth but beforehand,” says Olga, adding: “The midwives are specialists in their job and you cannot get better than that.”
Helena Harrington, chairman of the West Yorkshire WI federation, says: “This was one of the most popular resolutions we have had for many years ahead of the meeting, and as an issue that touches so many women across the world, it is of little surprise that so many members are so passionate about it.
“Despite welcome commitments from the Government to overhaul maternity services, the number of midwives is not keeping pace with the scale of the baby boom, resulting in an intolerable and unsustainable strain on the system.
“WI members recognise that midwives play a critical role in ensuring a mother’s experience of birth is as good as it can be and in giving families the best possible start.
“The Government’s recent pledge to ensure that every woman has one-to-one midwife care during labour and birth will go a long way to ensuring women get the care they need, yet the ongoing baby boom means that more midwives will be needed to meet higher care standards.
“WI members will now be calling for more action to ensure maternity services are adequately resourced in order to maintain the UK’s safe childbirth record and give families the best possible start.
“As the main campaigning focus for the year to come, the weight of 210,000 WI members will be behind our calls for more training, employment and retention to ensure that women and their babies will continue to be supported by midwife services across the UK.”
Bradford Royal Infirmary is making substantial investment to enhance the midwifery service it already provides.
Work has begun on the £1.2 million midwife-led maternity unit, due to open in September, and there are plans for the refurbishment and expansion of the hospital’s neo-natal unit next year.
Julie Walker, head of midwifery at Bradford Hospitals, said that while they already deliver a safe service with good outcomes the investment is to improve the environment, giving parents the best start to family life.
“The kind of birth and the experience women have sets them up for becoming a mum. Dads as well, because everybody is trying to get dads to be involved and it sets them up as a family if they have a good experience. It starts them off on their parenthood journey,” says Julie.
“It is about having the best possible start we can give them.”
Julie welcomes the WI’s involvement in pressing for more midwives. She says nationally the birthrate is increasing, which has placed greater demands on the service. Greater expectations have played a part too.
“Families’ expectations are higher, which is fine, and the right thing, but you need a certain level of staffing. It is a combination,” says Julie.
She says lifestyle issues such as high rates of diabetes, obesity, and economic issues contribute to an increased level of care.
Bradford is already addressing the issue of staffing with a recruitment drive. Julie says that by September there will be 20 extra midwives in post. Not all are full-time roles, but student midwives will soon qualify and there will be a team of maternity support workers.
“They (midwife support workers) don’t replace midwives, they enhance the care midwives give. They have time to sit with women, they give public health advice,” said Julie.
“I think it is really good a body like the WI have got on board with the business of maternity, because it is an issue for all women.”