March with Midwives vigil in Northampton town centre this weekend amid NHS ‘state of emergency’
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Campaigners and parents will stand alongside healthcare workers in up to 30 towns and cities across the UK 12 months after the 2021 March With Midwives, in which 16,000 midwives and supporters showed their concerns about the dangerously-low staffing levels.
March with Midwives is a grassroots collective of doulas, midwives and parents. One Northamptonshire doula said: "A year ago we campaigned to raise awareness of the dire state of maternity services and the impact this is having on midwives and families. Not much has changed — actually, things are worse! Maternity services across the UK are in a state of emergency and women and birthing people are in catastrophic danger.
“So, a year after the 2021 March With Midwives in which 16,000 midwives and families took to the streets to declare ‘enough is enough’ by demanding improvements to midwives working conditions and pay, we now return to declare a state of emergency.”
The vigil comes days after the Royal College of Midwives urged members to take action after what it branded an 'insulting' pay offer of four per cent, or a £1,400 boost. A ballot is open until December 12 and could see them join nurses on picket lines in what would be only the second midwives strikes in the College’s 140-year history.
A report by MBBRACE — Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries — this month revealed maternal death rates rising in the UK and an increases in the suicide rate of new and expectant mothers. Very few of them had a mental health diagnosis but significant numbers had a history of trauma.
A national petition demanding the health secretary invests £350 million in maternity services to ‘make birth better’ is closing in on its target of 7,500 signatures
Royal College of Midwives executive director, Dr Suzanne Tyler insisted that any strikes would not put women or babies at risk and safe services will be maintained. But she warned: “Our members are sending a very clear message to the Governments in England and Wales and one that must not be ignored any longer.
“Our own members told us last year that more than half of midwives were thinking of leaving the NHS: now that thought is becoming reality.
“It is scandalous and shameful that in one of the world’s richest countries we have highly trained professionals having to use food banks to feed their families and think hard about whether they turn the heating on. The decision to take industrial action will not be taken lightly but they clearly feel they have no other recourse than this.
“Governments must do far more to retain staff and bring others into the NHS and making a meaningful pay offer and an urgent retention package is a good place to start. Investing in NHS pay is an investment in staff and an investment in better care for women, babies, and families.”