Midwives' vigil in Northampton town centre this weekend to highlight growing crisis in maternity services

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"Midwives are on their knees and it's leading to a huge exodus, we cannot carry on like this," says group calling for change

Local midwives will take to the streets of Northampton town centre on Sunday (November 21) highlighting a growing crisis in maternity services.

Organisers of the March with Midwives say midwives are being driven out of the NHS by understaffing and fears they can’t deliver safe care to women in the current system.

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Sunday's vigil from 2pm outside the Grosvenor Centre in Abington Street is one of 75 being held across the country involving more than 20,000 supporters calling for an improvement on conditions and emergency funding to help keep staff.

Midwives say hundreds are being forced out of the profession leading to a crisis in maternity care.Midwives say hundreds are being forced out of the profession leading to a crisis in maternity care.
Midwives say hundreds are being forced out of the profession leading to a crisis in maternity care.

A spokesperson for the local March with Midwives group said: "We are coming together to raise awareness aiming to get the government to listen to the crisis that maternity services are currently in.

"Midwives are on their knees and it's leading to a huge exodus. We cannot carry on like this, we need to see commitment to real change.

"We're 3,500 midwives short of what we need and that number is only growing, rapidly. An NHS report in April showed the number of midwives had fallen by 300 in just two months.

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"Giving birth in the UK; a high-income country, is becoming critically unsafe and this is unacceptable.

"We have women, birthing people and babies at risk; their families, communities and countries become sick. It is a genuine national emergency which impacts every level of society.

“Promises are not being kept and politicians must take responsibility for their silence.“

An online petition backing midwives' calls for changes has so far been signed by more than 85,000 people.

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The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) published a survey recently, which revealed more than half of those surveyed said they were considering quitting.

More than eight out of 10 were concerned about staffing levels and two-thirds were not satisfied with the quality of care they are currently able to deliver.

Alarmingly, the highest level of dissatisfaction among those surveyed came from midwives who had only worked for five years or less in the NHS.

RCM general secretary, Gill Walton, said; “Every midwife and maternity support worker goes to work to provide safe, quality care. That so many feel that understaffing means they are unable to do so is deeply worrying.

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"What these numbers suggest is a midwife exodus, which will leave already-struggling services on their knees.

"Quite rightly, there is a strong focus on improving maternity safety, but there is a risk that the Government is ignoring the essential ingredient to that: having the right staff, in the right place.

“Investment and programmes to improve safety in maternity services hang in the balance here, because without adequate numbers of staff with are fighting a losing battle. Every safety report cites understaffing as an issue that is comprising the delivery of safe care, but when are the Government going to take note?"

The College says that burnout among midwives and all maternity staff is higher than ever, particularly after Covid-19 which saw an increase in sickness absence adding to a pre-existing shortage of 2,000 midwives in England alone.

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Ms Walton added: “Not a day goes by that we don’t hear of a maternity service having to close temporarily, suspend services or divert women to other maternity units just because there simply aren’t enough midwives.

"This can’t continue because we know it compromises safety and means women don’t always get the safe positive pregnancy and birth experience that they should.

“It’s also having a shocking impact on maternity staff themselves. A shortage of midwives has undoubtedly worsened rates of physical and mental burnout among our members.

"Morale among staff is low and has been worsened by the recent pay award in England."