The RCM is also perplexed at how the report looks at midwife to birth ratios, using phrases such as 'better than expected' to describe a trust's progress rather than comparing with the recommended minimum ratios. This phrase masks the fact that many trusts are still not meeting the recommended minimum ratios, but they could appear to be doing OK as the overall ratio across England is insufficient to provide the quality of care that mothers and babies deserve. The latest ratio figures show that most regions in England do not enough midwives and are not meeting the recommended ratios.*
Maternity services are also failing in areas such as antennal and postnatal care. Staff working in these important areas are often pulled out of them and into the labour wards, leaving these areas understaffed and not delivering the care that women need.
Commenting on the report, Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said "This supports and highlights all we have been saying for many years about the shortage of midwives and the need for serious investment in maternity services.
"A failure to have adequate numbers of midwives leads to mistakes and lower quality care. It is also not just the ratio that matters but also the skills and experience of the staff. We recognise investment in midwifery training but this will be wasted if the newly qualified midwives cannot find jobs. Once qualified they need support from experienced midwives whist they consolidate the skills learned during their training. Many of these midwives are those whose jobs are currently under threat.
"This Government must take this issue much more seriously and give it more attention than they are doing. If they do not mothers, babies and their families are the ones who will suffer the consequences of this Government's failure to ensure that maternity services have the resources to meet the demands facing them.
"The RCM has an e-petition calling for 5000 more midwives and I would encourage all people to sign it to send a message to this Government that maternity services matter."
The RCM launched an e-petition calling for 5000 more midwives in the NHS in England and is encouraging people to sign it. 100,000 signatures are needed to generate a parliamentary debate on the issue. The petition can be signed at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/13716.
The RCM also produced a 40 second animation to encourage signatures to the petition and this can be found at http://protect.rcm.org.uk/rcm-video. Midwives and members of the public can report threats to their maternity services via the RCM's Protect Maternity Services website at http://protect.rcm.org.uk/.