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Royal Colleges hit out at ‘under-investment in maternity care’

More than a decade of under-investment and an over-reliance on committed staff has been brutally exposed by the pandemic, according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Speaking at the Baby Lifeline Maternity Safety Conference, RCM CEO, Gill Walton, and RCOG president, Dr. Edward Morris, called for sustained investment in maternity services and staff, and for positive cultural change that puts safety at the centre of care, to be supported and embedded.

The two leaders focused on the unsustainable pressures on staff, intensified by the pandemic, and the chasm it revealed between what staffing and funding is needed, and what is actually available. Both also highlighted the role of the RCM and RCOG in the pandemic, pulling together to provide national direction around maternity issues, offering advice, guidance and support for women and staff.

Gill Walton said: “There is investment in services and in training coming and this is welcome, but much more is needed to make up for decades of under-investment. The cracks in maternity are now clearly visible. We have seen real, terrible, and tragic events emerge in our maternity services over recent years. These have shown the human cost of getting it wrong for women, their families and for staff, and the financial cost to trusts in pay-outs, which investment could have prevented. It seems that only when these events happen do senior managers and Governments take notice and act. These things do not come out of the blue. The circumstances and conditions that led to them were already there and were not tackled.

“We must have cultures that foster, champion and live and breathe safety.  It must become the DNA that runs through everything we do, every tiny action, every tiny decision. This needs investment, it needs commitment, and it needs doing now.”

There is also a call for stronger maternity leadership shared across the two professions. Those leaders must also at the highest possible level within trusts and boards, so their voices are heard for women and for staff. We must retain the staff we have and ensure a pipeline of future leaders say the Colleges.

Dr. Edward Morris said: “We are pleased that in recent months, the UK Government has committed a large amount of funding to maternity services – both for a new workplace planning tool and a project to reduce brain injuries in childbirth. We feel confident that this investment will go a huge way to improving the quality of care provided to pregnant women and their babies, however we also recognise that our maternity services are running on empty and something urgently needs to change.

“We need a system that is much more cohesive, enabling current and future staff to feel supported and empowered to speak out if they are struggling or are witnessing organisational cultures or behaviours that are concerning or unsafe. It’s clear maternity units are bowing under the pressure of reduced staffing levels, inadequate health facilities and the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which will test their ability to provide the best care possible to pregnant women and their families. We are calling for sustained investment in maternity services and staff, as women deserve to give birth in a safe and supported environment.”

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Upcoming Events

Future Surgery 2021

ExCel London
9th - 10th November 2021

Medica 2021

Dusseldorf Germany
15th - 18th November

Arab Health 2022

Dubai World Trade Centre
24th - 27th January

Central Sterilising Club 60th Anniversary Annual Scientific Meeting

Crowne Plaza, Bridge Foot, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6YR
4th - 5th April

iM Med Decontamination Academy Spring Conference

Royal College of Physicians, London
11th May 2022

Access the latest issue of Clinical Services Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

Download the FREE Clinical Services Journal app from your device's App store

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