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NOV 27/2013

Meeting the growing demand for midwives in the UK


People in training as UK midwives could be set to see an abundance of opportunities available to them in the coming years, as the government takes the necessary action to flesh out maternity services across the country.

In recent years, there has been a growing demand for midwifery services in NHS hospitals - a trend that is only set to continue gathering momentum in the medium-term future. Indeed, industry organisations such as the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have warned that a significant staffing shortfall could occur if appropriate action is not taken.

The current shortage
There are a number of reasons why midwives are so heavily in demand at the moment, but the most simple of these explanations is the skyrocketing birth rate observed in the UK in recent times.

In 2012, there were 694,241 live births in England - up from 688,120 in 2011 and 687,007 in 2010. This means that between 2010 and 2012, the number of live births in England rose by 1.1 per cent, with last year's total representing the highest number of babies born in England in one year for more than four decades.

In the last ten years alone, there has been a 23 per cent rise in birth rates and this baby boom is expected to continue for some time to come.

However, it is not only the number of pregnancies being recorded in the UK that is causing this issue - on top of this, there are several factors making these births more difficult to manage. The British population is currently ageing, meaning women are having babies later and later in life - this, in turn, can increase the risk of complications for mother and child alike.

Additionally, the UK has a well-documented obesity problem, which compounds the risk of birth complications among overweight mothers, making it more necessary than ever that more midwives are available.

Figures from both the RCM and the National Audit Office suggest the NHS could potentially be thousands of midwives short, a trend that could continue to the end of this decade if nothing is done to address it.

A fresh recruitment drive?
In recent months, the government has gone on record to underline the importance that new midwife recruitment plays in its overall strategy. Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said earlier this month that the Department of Health is committed to increasing the number of midwives in the NHS, while a record number of training commissions is anticipated.

Since 2010, there are over 1,300 more midwives working in the NHS and a record 5,000 midwives in training. Moreover, the government announced a new drive to particularly increase the number of specialist mental health midwives employed in the UK, in order to provide appropriate care for new mothers suffering from postnatal depression.

Meanwhile, the RCM is calling for a more robust system to be implemented for overseas applicants to practice in the UK, ensuring Britain can benefit from an influx of able and qualified foreign midwives and nurses, without the application process becoming overly bureaucratic.

Through measures such as this, the NHS will be able to make progress towards ensuring the growing demand for able midwives is met.

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