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Midwives under pressure

Following the alarming findings in the MBRRACE report, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has declared that Midwifery has reached crisis point, with staffing levels hitting an all-time low and burnout skyrocketing among practitioners.

Following the alarming findings in the MBRRACE report, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has declared that Midwifery has reached crisis point, with staffing levels hitting an all-time low and burnout skyrocketing among practitioners. Despite persistent warnings from the RCM, the mainstream media largely ignored the crisis until recently. The BBC’s latest interview with a former Midwife and the panorama episode “Midwives Under Pressure” has sparked a broader debate on the current conditions.

The interviewed Midwife revealed her departure from the profession was driven by her inability to reconcile with providing subpar care. The article also emphasised a concerning statistic reported in November, stating that 67% of 178 maternity units in England consistently failed to meet safety standards, making maternity care the lowest rated among all hospital services inspected by the Care Quality Commission.

The Panorama episode explored the challenges within Gloucestershire hospitals, specifically examining deaths under the trust’s care. The response from the trust attempts to downplay the severity, stating that the data aligns with the national average. However, In the first half of 2023, the trust was short of more than 50 Midwifery staff on average, and an investigation into the death of one baby found that staffing levels could have changed the outcome.

On social media, a wave of former Midwives has emerged, sharing experiences that predominantly cite underpayment, overwork, and unsafe conditions due to insufficient staffing as reasons for leaving the profession. Ellie Taylor, one of the former Midwives speaking out, shared that even doubling the salary would not relieve the burnout that forced many Midwives out of the profession.

Dr. Sally Pezaro, a researcher and Midwifery lecturer, expressed concern about devaluing Midwifery skills. She argued that celebrating nurses and Midwives for unpaid efforts damages the perception of the profession, contributing to a culture where these professionals are exploited and undervalued. The issue extends beyond the demanding nature of Midwifery work; it involves the societal attitudes that lead to the exploitation of these midwives who often receive praise for taking on extra shifts but are vilified if they decline, fostering a toxic culture.

In the face of understaffing and overwhelming workloads, a culture of shaming and bullying emerges within the Midwifery system. Recognising that blame lies not with individuals but with systemic issues, it’s clear that addressing these challenges is crucial for the well-being of both Midwives and the mothers they care for.

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