A recent survey by nurses.co.uk has revealed that the real issues behind the shortage of midwives in the UK include pay, long working hours, and access to jobs due to qualification criteria, as well as positions being filled by nurses from overseas.
Despite the fact that 88% of UK registered midwives that answered the survey said they had experienced a shortage of midwives and that this staff deficit put the lives of patients at risk, the feedback clearly suggested that the issues were not as simple as the jobs being there with no midwives to fill them.
Core concerns were raised around salaries vs. working hours, in conjunction with cost and staff cutting exercises having a significant impact on the expectations of nurses and midwives. With an increasing amount of pressure placed on those in current positions, dissatisfaction and frustration in the workplace is on the rise, as organisations and teams are expected to manage bigger patient demands with fewer high-quality staff. Comments included a need for better working conditions, more realistic workloads and more support from senior colleagues.
Qualifications, conversions and bursaries also came up as key challenges, with many finding the route to becoming a qualified midwife or staying registered as one, progressively more difficult. Nearly 70% of survey participants felt that proposals to increase the bursary available for midwifery students would encourage more prospective entrants to enrol. However, others felt that the tough interview process for applicants reduced the motivation for nurses to pursue this route and the eighteen month conversion needed for midwifery following an adult nursing degree, further reduced the qualification rate and increased barriers to professional positions.
Once qualified, further obstacles to securing a job included lengthy paperwork and processes, issues and fears around litigation (errors in maternity care are by far the biggest contributor to medical negligence payouts), lack of flexibility and in some areas, a straightforward lack of bank and agency jobs. Comments from some of the survey participants also highlighted experience of losing out to nurses and midwives from overseas. Whilst nursing and midwifery is no longer on the official ‘job shortage’ list, which often promotes an influx of professionals from abroad, there has been feedback to support the case that nursing jobs are still being assigned to those who are moving from or within the EU.
Nurses.co.uk CEO, Matt Farrah commented:
“My understanding is that some of the rules on attracting midwives from EU/EEA countries have been relaxed. However, I don't know if there is real, evidential information anywhere to back this up. Agencies have told me directly that they have found it simple to bring in midwives from Germany, Scandinavia, France and Italy and that they feel it's easy because the Government acknowledges we are short on skills ourselves. Whether gaps being filled by overseas recruitment are due to a shortage of skills and/or the issues revealed in the survey remains to be seen.”
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