Demoralised midwives 'want to quit'
Almost a quarter of midwives would consider quitting their profession in the next 12 months because of resentment over pay and conditions.
A survey by The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) found that staff were demoralised, disillusioned and burned-out in their roles.
An increasing sense of alienation in the workplace led 36% of the 1,025 midwives questioned to admit that they often think about leaving their NHS trust.
And 24% said they were so disenchanted with their work that they would potentially change careers within the next year. Of those with less than 10 years' service, that figure increased to 29%.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said that midwives faced increased work pressures, with many carrying out a growing amount of unpaid work despite the rewards they receive diminishing.
She said: "While maternity staff remain committed to mothers and their families, I feel that the goodwill and kindness of midwives is being eroded and our members are facing the thin end of the wedge."
A report released by the National Audit Office last week highlighted a shortage of midwives and consultants on labour wards, with a shortfall of around 2,300 midwives during 2012.
But the RCM estimates that number is more like 4,800, partly because of the ageing workforce. Up to 40% of midwives are expected to retire in the next 10 years, the RCM said.
The survey, which comes ahead of the RCM's annual conference in Telford this week, also found that less than half of midwives (46%) felt a sense of belonging to their NHS trust.
The majority of midwives were highly motivated and committed to serving the mothers and babies in their care, yet m ore than half were dissatisfied with the recognition they receive for "good work" and the value placed on their work by their trust.
And two thirds of respondents said they opposed performance-related pay.
Midwives were also worried about having to work beyond 65 and many highlighted concerns about increasing amounts of unpaid overtime and long hours impacting on safety.
Prof Warwick said: "Maternity staff are being required to work harder to meet the increasing demands of the service during the baby boom, including performing a growing amount of unpaid work.
"The rewards they receive are diminishing. Our cash-strapped members are reporting working bank shifts during the holidays to make ends meet and are increasingly burning out and becoming disillusioned. This cannot go on."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "The staff working for our NHS are our health service's most precious resource. We know midwives are working extremely hard and continue to provide a high quality of care in the face of rising demands.
"Investing in maternity care has been a top priority for the Government. There are now almost 1,400 more midwives in the NHS than in May 2010 and a record number, over 5,000, in training.
"We recently announced the new Chief Inspector of Hospitals who will take action if hospitals are found to be compromising patient care by not having the right number of staff on wards. But equally important, hospital leaders need to create the right culture and environment so staff have a positive experience and are fully supported to deliver the best possible care for patients."