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Midwives’ concerns to be urgently investigated after Holyrood vote

The Royal College of Midwives said proposed reforms to the Best Start programme would require more staff being employed by health boards.

The Scottish Government wants mothers-to-be to receive most of their care from the same midwife or group of midwives (Yui Mok/PA)
The Scottish Government wants mothers-to-be to receive most of their care from the same midwife or group of midwives (Yui Mok/PA)

MSPs have voted for an “urgent investigation” to be carried out into midwives’ concerns over Scottish Government reforms.

Holyrood voted by 92 to 26 in favour of the probe as the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said the Best Start changes would require health boards to take on more staff to help care for pregnant women.

The reforms would mean every woman has “continuity of care from a primary midwife” throughout their pregnancy, delivery and beyond.

But midwives in NHS Lothian have raised safety concerns the changes could leave them “pushed to their limits”, warning they could become increasingly “overtired, stressed or unwell”.

Dr Mary Ross-Davie, RCM director for Scotland, said to bring in the changes successfully “health boards will need, at least temporarily, to increase the number of midwives in the system”.

“The Scottish Government has set out a radical vision for maternity services,” she said.

“Such a huge change requires significant ongoing investment and careful implementation.

“We recognise the positive start with the commitment of £12 million for implementation made by the Government.

“We also recognise the year-on-year increase in student midwife places, the continuation of the student bursary and the new safe staffing legislation.

“This will all contribute to ensuring that we have enough midwives and maternity support workers to provide safe care.”

But with the changes being trialled in five “early adopter” board areas, Dr Ross-Davie stressed it was vital ministers and health bosses “support and listen to their midwives”.

She said: “Midwives need to have patterns of working that enable them to have a good work-life balance, they need to have workloads that enable them to provide high quality care and any changes need to be shaped by the midwives themselves.

“Not all midwives wish or are able to work in this different way and their contribution needs to continue to be valued.”

She spoke after Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey told MSPs providing continuity of care in midwifery services was “the right thing to do for women and for families and for midwives”.

But she said: “I understand that many midwives in Scotland have never worked this way and that change is daunting.

“That’s why it’s so important that boards work in partnership with their local maternity staff to ensure they feel safe and supported during the transition.”

She added: “Reforming services is not easy but we should not shy away from moving forward when we know it is the right thing to do.”

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, who highlighted the midwives’ concerns in the debate, said afterwards she was “pleased that Parliament has recognised the significant workforce pressures faced by midwives and that the concerns raised by midwives in NHS Lothian need urgent investigation”.

She added: “Scottish ministers must act swiftly to initiate an investigation and keep Parliament updated.

“These are challenges which are faced by midwives across the country and that’s why we are also calling on the SNP to ensure that the Best Start reforms to midwifery and neonatal services are properly resourced.

“Midwives are absolutely crucial to the care of women and babies.

“The best way to celebrate their contribution to the NHS is by listening to their concerns and ensuring they have enough resources to do their jobs.”

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