Baby boom sparks midwives crisis
A baby boom has pushed maternity services in the UK to a "crucial tipping point", with midwives under intense strain and hospitals struggling to cope.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says there is a massive shortage of midwives after some areas of the UK has seen a 50% rise in the number of births in the last few years.
In a report to be published in parliament on Tuesday, the RCM warned that an extra 5,000 midwives were needed in England alone to deal with the highest birth rate in 40 years.
It is calling on the Government to provide a guarantee not to cut midwife training places.
Each of the four parts of the UK has experienced a rise in the number of births in the last decade - 22% in England, 17% in Wales, 15% in Northern Ireland and 12% in Scotland.
The RCM said England and Wales had been "overwhelmed" by the rising birth rate, but while midwife numbers were increasing a little the strain on numbers has led to antenatal care of expectant mothers becoming "threadbare".
There are also concerns about an ageing number of midwives, with too few following in their footsteps.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said: "England remains around 5,000 midwives short of the number required to provide mothers and babies with high-quality service they need and deserve.
"Maternity care is the earliest health intervention of all and getting care right for mothers and babies is a vital part of supporting families and building a foundation for good health in later life."
She said that while more midwives are being employed in England and the availability of training is on the rise, efforts need to be redoubled because of the baby boom and the relentless rise in the numbers being born.