MPs told by NHS; ‘We have no solution to midwife shortages’

Sir David Nicholson told the committee that there is indeed a requirement for 4,500 extra midwives but denied the service was in crisis. When asked how long it would take the fill the gap, he responded “I think we’re working through what that means at the moment. I don’t think we’ve concluded how we can do it.”

Following the committee meeting the General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, Cathy Warwick, said that “We were so pleased when the Prime Minister (David Cameron) promised a year ago to recruit an extra 3,000 midwives, a promise that has disappeared without trace. It is notable that David Nicholson is suggesting that even this number would not be adequate.”

Recently the Director of Policy and Professional Services at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, Tom Hadley, said that “The lack of available midwives demonstrates the extent of the staffing challenge facing the National Health Service as well as other public sector employers. The squeeze on public expenditure will inevitably impact on the workforce but we must avoid knee-jerk cuts that not only impact on patient care but also place unsustainable pressure on remaining staff. One solution is to make more use of flexible staffing arrangements such as temporary and locum staff in order to meet peaks in demand and provide essential cover in emergency situations such as complicated births. Rather than seeing agency costs as one of the first budget lines to be slashed, NHS Trusts and other public bodies must recognise the importance of being able to call upon suitably qualified and properly vetted flexible staff. The recent report also underlines the need for strict guidelines – for example, in terms of number of workers per bed – in order to provide some objective measurement that adequate staffing levels are being met. In 2011, the public sector will see the real impact of 2010’s budget cuts – it is crucial that staffing costs are not seen as an easy way to balance the books with no regard to the impact on front line services.”

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