Huge support for Burnley March with Midwives vigil calling for urgent government action to stem crisis in maternity services

A vigil calling for urgent government action to stem the crisis in maternity services in the NHS took place in Burnley.

The March with Midwives vigil was one of several held across the UK and the Burnley event, held at the Peace Gardens, was organised by registered midwife Sundas Khalid who is also co-founder of the Association of South Asian Midwives.

Sundas said: "The vigils were arranged nationwide and, as a Burnley resident, I saw that the most local to me was Manchester so, after some discussions with colleagues and friends, arranged for one to held here to inform the local community and councillors of the issues facing midwives.

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"It proved to be successful as many were unaware of the crisis. It was reassuring to see how many stood in solidarity with us as midwives.

Supporters at the March with Midwives vigil in Burnley

"I have been a midwife for just over three years. I am very passionate about midwifery and this passion has only grown over the years. However over the last few months I have felt the strains of being a midwife.

"When speaking with friends and colleagues who are midwives, they also feel the same. I know of several who have left midwifery to pursue careers in other fields.

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"Staffing up and down the country has been dire and the demands on midwives are increasing but it cannot go on.

"Midwives are tired and leaving the profession and action needs to be taken, midwives need to be heard.

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Green Party councillor Martyn Hurt shows his support for the March with Midwives vigil

"Now we hope for action to be taken to lessen the load on midwives and to keep midwives in the profession."

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The grassroots movement aims to highlight some of the issues plunging the midwifery profession into crisis and claims that unnecessary medical interventions are at epidemic levels but also concerns are being missed and intervention made too late - much of it due to staffing problems.

March with Midwives has also said that an estimated 30,000 birthing people a year experience birth trauma in the UK with up to 30% of all service users rating their birth as traumatic.

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It also makes the following key points:

Green Party councillor Andy Fewings with supporters at the vigil
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● 2021 has seen maternity services become critically unsafe for staff and users; as of July of this year, 41% of all maternity services are rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement” for safety

● Black women have a 4 x higher risk and Asian women a 2 x higher risk of dying in pregnancy than white women and are more likely to die during the childbearing year.

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● Women living in the most deprived areas are almost three times more likely to die than those who live in the most affluent areas.

● A recent RCM survey of midwives found 60% of staff are thinking of leaving the profession.

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● For every 30 newly qualified midwives, 29 are leaving, meaning the NHS gains only one extra midwife.

● The Royal College of Midwives estimates the UK is short 3,500 midwives and this problem is growing rapidly.

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The April 2021 NHS report showed the number of midwives had fallen by 300 in just two months (the fastest fall on record) and studies have shown levels of mental health issues among midwives are distressingly high, including PTSD (33%) extreme stress (36.7%), anxiety (38%), and depression (33%)

.And around 96% of student midwives reported mental health problems since the beginning of the pandemic.

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The Royal College of Midwifery has expressed concern over how the staffing crisis leaves a majority of trusts without sufficient numbers of appropriately trained midwives to help support infant feeding.

A representative for the March with Midwives’ steering group said: “It is clear that maternity services in the UK are in crisis, giving birth in the UK; a high-income country, is becoming critically unsafe.

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"This is unacceptable. Where we have women, birthing people and babies at risk; their families, communities and countries become sick. This is a genuine national emergency which impacts every level of society.

“We call on the UK government to implement urgent crisis management and resources. Government promises are not being kept and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Maternity must take responsibility for their silence and call for immediate action.“

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Burnley Green Party councillors, Martyn Hurt, Sarah Hall and Andy Fewings together with Green Party members and friends joined the vigil and joined the call to action and for people to spread the word and help awareness of the crisis as the vigil is just the first step in the campaign.

And Coun. Fewings revealed he received a harrowing message from a local midwife, who wanted to remain anonymous.

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He said: "The midwife said that the situation at the moment is 'unbelievably terrible' and also unsafe and frightening. She told me that one night last week she worked a shift, and there were just two newly qualified midwives and one agency midwife with no shift coordinator.

"The other wards were also short staffed and extremely busy so couldn’t spare any midwives to offer help

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"So for the entire night shift, three midwives looked after a full ward of 29 women and 29 babies… a situation where it is impossible to provide safe, effective, personalised care to 58 patients with just three inexperienced midwives and no leader."

The midwife added the situation was unsafe for women and 'terrifying' for the staff knowing that if there is ever a poor outcome they are likely to lose their registration for failing to keep women safe.