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Midwives march to warn NHS services are a 'national emergency'

‘We’re burnt out and crying for help’: Midwives take to the streets to warn NHS services are a ‘national emergency’ with staff at ‘breaking point’

  • Midwives marching across towns and cities in the UK called for more support
  • The March with Midwives campaign said maternity services are now in a ‘crisis’
  • Midwife Sarah Muggleton, 27, spoke of the gruelling 12-and-a-half-hour shifts

Midwives marching up and down the country said maternity services are at ‘breaking point’ and that the industry’s ‘crisis’ should be treated as a ‘national emergency’.  

A March with Midwives campaign saw midwives and supporters gathered in towns across the UK on Sunday, calling on politicians to listen to all staff and the people who use maternity services, fund the emergency retention of staff, support student training and reduce demands on staff.  

Families whose babies were delivered as well as midwives also gathered at a vigil in Parliament Square in London to call on the Government to take action against the staffing shortages and tackle safety concerns in maternity units. 

Data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) earlier this month showed that the overall number of people quitting the register has increased for the most recent period for the first time in four years 

London-based midwife Sarah Muggleton, 27, spoke of the burnout she faces day-to-day and in the duration her six-year career.

She told the crowd in central London: ‘I give every drop of my energy and emotion to hormonal and sometimes traumatised women so when I get home I have nothing more I can give to myself or my loved ones.

‘I often have to skip lunch breaks as I do 12-and-a-half-hour shifts to try and achieve the basic levels of care required of me.

‘I will be lucky to go to the toilet when I want.

‘Don’t even get started on the pay.’

She added that stresses of her job can include caring for a bereaved family who have just had a stillborn baby and then having to run down to another labour ward room where a woman is delivering a live baby because there is not enough staff for the required one-to-one care.

London-based midwife Sarah Muggleton, 27 (pictured) spoke of the burnout she faces day-to-day and in the duration her six-year career

Ms Muggleton also said: ‘I know I am not treated right and it is bad for my mental health.

‘I know I should leave but I care so much for the women.

‘Maternity services are at crisis point now. We have to have improvements now.

‘We are burnt out and crying for help now.’

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy described it as ‘a major disgrace’ that the role of a midwife does not appear to be valued enough.

She said: ‘More people are not going to put themselves forward to be midwives if they are not paid properly, if they are not treated properly, if they are over-stressed and over-worked.’  

Midwives marching up and down the country said maternity services are at ‘breaking point’ and that the industry’s ‘crisis’ should be treated as a ‘national emergency’ 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: ‘We are committed to patient safety, eradicating avoidable harms and making the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth’

Data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) earlier this month showed that the overall number of people quitting the register has increased for the most recent period for the first time in four years. 

Its mid-year registration data showed that 13,945 people left between April and September, compared with 11,020 in the same period last year.

Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC chief executive and registrar, warned more people could leave if further efforts aren’t made to tackle the pandemic’s effects on nursing and midwifery.  

More than half (57%) of midwives are looking to leave and the biggest group among them are those who have only been working for five years or less, a survey from The Royal College of Midwives found last month.

Jon Skewes, Executive Director of External Relations at the college, said: ‘For years, maternity services have been operating with too few staff and inadequate resources.

Midwives and supporters gathered in towns across the UK on Sunday, calling on politicians to listen to all staff and the people who use maternity services

‘NHS Trusts and Boards have relied on the goodwill of staff, and their genuine love of what they do, to maintain services but staff are reaching the end of their tether.’

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: ‘We are committed to patient safety, eradicating avoidable harms and making the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth.

‘Midwives do an incredibly important job and we know how challenging it has been for those working during the pandemic.

‘There are more midwives working in the NHS now than at any other time in its history and we are aiming to hire 1,200 more with a £95 million recruitment drive.

‘The mental health and wellbeing of staff remains a key priority and the NHS continues to offer a broad range of support including through dedicated helplines and mental health and wellbeing hubs.’

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